The name of one of the most reviled killers in Britain will not be one that is at the forefront of the mind of any reader of true crime. He has served 43 years in prison for his monstrous crimes, and has applied for release on at least nine separate occasions. However, this has been refused each time due to the wave of public hatred that still to this day remains against him. His crimes rank up alongside the crimes of the Moors Murders in horror, yet until recently his name was relatively unknown and largely forgotten, bar within the locality of where they were committed. His name is David Mcgreavy, or as his is dubbed by the press and the British public, “The Monster Of Worcester”, or “The Real Friday the 13th Killer”.
David Anthony Mcgreavy was born in Southport in 1951, the second eldest of six children born to Bella and Thomas Mcgreavy. The Mcgreavy family were a forces family, and often moved around depending on where Thomas, a Sergeant serving in the Royal Signals, was posted to. This is often hard on children, uprooting all of a sudden and having to make new friends and go to new schools. However, millions of children do the same without any lasting damage, and there is nothing in Mcgreavy’s early years to suggest that the constant moves had caused any underlying problems. After his arrest, his mother was interviewed and said that David was at his happiest when the family was stationed in Germany. She further said that the only ever instance concerning Mcgreavy that gave cause for concern was when the then teenaged Mcgreavy stole her shopping money, left the family home (which at the time was in Cardiff), and went off on a day trip to Liverpool.
Aged 15 in 1967, Mcgreavy left school and achieved his lifelong ambition by enlisting in the Royal Navy. It was in the Navy, however, that Mcgreavy’s first developed problems with alcohol. When drinking, he was known to be surly and to have a violent temper that could flare up without warning or with minor provocation. At his first Naval posting, HMS Eagle in Portsmouth, colleagues of Mcgreavy were struck by the arrogance and cockiness of the young rating, and he was frequently subject to disciplinary measures. The defining incident of his naval career occurred in the late 1960’s when he was stationed at RNAS Brawdy in Pembrokeshire, when he was sentenced to 90 days detention for negligence. One night, Mcgreavy had turned up for his duty watch drunk and agitated. Whilst on watch, he broke into an officers ward room and started a fire in a waste paper bin, then raised the alarm, claiming he was not responsible, but a sole eye witness. The Navy, however, did not believe this fallacy and court-martialed him. He escaped being charged with arson, but the negligence charge spelt the beginning of the end of his naval career. Whilst in detention, his commanding officer ordered that he undergo psychiatric evaluation. The results of this evaluation was never relayed to Mcgreavy’s parents, nor has ever been made public in the aftermath of his crimes.
In January 1971, Mcgreavy began writing to, and quickly became besotted with, a young woman named Mary, the sister of a fellow seaman. By April 1971, Mcgreavy had proposed to her just a short week after meeting her for the first time. Mary had many debilitating health issues and was not liked by Mcgreavy’s parents, but the arrogant young man would listen to nobody but himself and threw himself enthusiastically into the relationship. In August of that year, he was finally discharged from the Navy. This devastated him, and with nowhere else to go he returned to his parent’s home in Worcester. Thus began a cycle of drifting from job to job, where he was inevitably sacked for his arrogance, attitude and often, his affection for alcohol. He lost jobs as a chef and as a labourer in quick succession because of this. Despairing, he threw himself into his relationship with Mary, and his infatuation intensified – to the point where despite being unemployed and poor, he had a lavish wedding all planned out for Christmas 1971. However, this infatuation served only to make Mary become uncomfortable with the relationship, and on New Year’s Eve 1971 she broke off their engagement.
January 1972 found Mcgreavy still living at his parent’s house, devastated from losing Mary, and effectively living as a wastrel. He did not actively seek work, would not help around the house and was still abusing alcohol often. His parents finally had had enough and threw him out later that year.
By mid 1972, Mcgreavy had moved in as a lodger of an old school friend called Clive Ralph. Clive lived in a two bedroom house on Gillam Street, Worcester, with his young wife Elsie, who was heavily pregnant with the couple’s third child. They already had four year old Paul and one year old Dawn, and in September 1972 Elsie gave birth to Samantha. Mcgreavy paid the couple £6 a week rent and shared a room with the four year old Paul. He regularly helped out with the children or by cooking meals and doing chores around the house when Clive was away working as a long distance lorry driver. Despite his fondness for alcohol, Mcgreavy was holding down a factory job and when in March 1973 Elsie found work as a barmaid in the PunchBowl Tavern a couple of miles from the Ralph’s home, he spent more and more time looking after the children. Locals remember him as being a man who loved children and was always playing with them, and acting in the concerned father figure role.
By all accounts the time Mcgreavy spent lodging with the Ralph’s seems a period of stability in Mcgreavy’s life. Until Friday 13th April 1973, that is.
Elsie normally worked until closing time at the PunchBowl Tavern, and the practice was for Clive to come to pick her up late, help her closing up and tidying up, and have a last orders pint. Mcgreavy would be at home looking after the Ralph children. That evening, Clive did the same as usual, leaving the sleeping children under the supervision of Mcgreavy. As usual, Mcgreavy had been drinking. He had been drinking with a friend in the Buck’s Hill pub in Worcester since early evening, and had drunk between 5 to 7 pints of beer. The evening had soured somewhat when Mcgreavy had been involved in a small altercation with his friend after he put out a cigarette in his friend’s pint. As they were having words outside, Clive arrived to collect Mcgreavy and brought him home to look after the three children, while he went to collect Elsie.
What followed that evening are some of the most horrific and unexplained crimes ever committed in Britain.
At a time never made clear, but sometime between 10:15pm and 11:15pm, a still drunk Mcgreavy lost his temper with the Ralph children. Seven month old Samantha awoke and began crying for her bottle, so Mcgreavy began shouting back at her. This of course had no effect in stopping a seven month old child from crying, so Mcgreavy placed his hand over her mouth and strangled her. When Samantha had stopped breathing, Mcgreavy went into the bathroom and returned with a razor. He then went on to use the razor to mutilate the seven month old child, and caused a fatal compound fracture of her skull by beating her severely. He then turned his attention to the other two children, both of whom were sound asleep. Two year old Dawn was strangled in her bed, and finally died when Mcgreavy slit her throat with the razor. The eldest child, Paul, was strangled with curtain wire as he slept. Already the stuff of unimaginable nightmares, worse was yet to follow.
After killing the three children, Mcgreavy mutilated each of their bodies with the razor. Not satisfied with this, Mcgreavy next went down to the basement of the house and returned upstairs with a pickaxe. He then used the tool to further and horrifically mutilate the three children. But it was his final act that caused hardened detectives to be left sick and shaken, and that has helped the name David Mcgreavy to remain reviled for the past 43 years. Before leaving the house, Mcgreavy carried the children, one by one, out into the back garden. He then impaled each child on the wrought iron pointed spikes of the next door neighbours fence.
Concerned neighbours had heard several bangs and the sound of Samantha crying, and noticed a succession of lights in the house being turned on, then off again. The bedroom, then the next bedroom. The bathroom. Finally, the basement…..It caused enough concern for the police to be contacted, and a patrol car was despatched to the scene. Finding no answer, the officers tried around the back of the house, and it was there by torchlight that they made the most unimaginable discovery ever. One experienced officer even vomited, and all officers on the scene were left sickened and shaken.
The search was on for the children’s parents, and when Clive and Elsie arrived back home they were denied access to their house. They were never to return to it. They were taken to the police station and questioned, and when it became clear that they had had nothing to do with their children’s deaths, the Ralph’s were told what had happened:
“This is when they’d told us that there had been a murder, that there was an investigation going on. And that’s as far as I can really remember properly because there was a doctor there at the time because I went hysterical, which you would, and he gave me an injection, and I don’t really…I never ever went back to the house. I wasn’t allowed because I was screaming saying that I wanted to go and see my children and…they said we couldn’t do that…I wasn’t allowed to go to the mortuary” – Elsie Urry (interviewed in 2013)
The focus of a police manhunt began for the one person from the Ralph household who was unaccounted for: David Mcgreavy. Mcgreavy was located just a scant few hours later in a nearby road to the murder scene. He was arrested, exclaiming “What’s this all about?” as he was. Several hours after his arrest, the normally arrogant and cocksure young man broke down during questioning, and admitted to killing the three children.
“It was all too bloody gruesome. It was me but it wasn’t me. How could I do it?” – David Mcgreavy (during questioning after his arrest in 1973)
Mcgreavy then went on to describe the children’s deaths in lucid detail:
“On Paul I used the wire. Everything just seemed to cave in. I picked up the pickaxe and used it on all of them. Then I went outside and put them on the railings. All I can hear is kids, kids, fucking kids” – Mcgreavy during questioning
He then explained how Samantha would not stop crying:
“I cut off her breath, and then went into the bathroom and picked up the razor blade and used it on her. I did the same to Dawn and then used a piece of curtain wire on Paul” – Mcgreavy during questioning.
It was impossible to find a motive for the senseless killings. Everyone who knew Mcgreavy claimed of his love for children, and there was never any hint of Mcgreavy having committed sexual abuse of children, or a perverted lust for children in his past. Elsie Ralph could not begin to understand just why Mcgreavy had committed such a horrific act of slaughter, recalling how he loved to bounce the children up and down on his knee, would spend hours playing with them and had once even scolded her for her chastising of Paul, the eldest child. A motive for the children’s deaths has still never been explained to this day. Mcgreavy himself, when asked why he had committed the murders, said simply:
“That is what I have been trying to figure out”
On Monday the 16th of April 1973, Mcgreavy made the first of ten remand appearances at Worcester Magistrates Court, where in a ten minute hearing he was charged with the murders of the three Ralph children. Local gossip had spread like wildfire, and the public gallery of the court was packed, unusually for the time with a predominantly female audience. One reporter covering the story claimed at the time there was a definite atmosphere in the court and if any of the women could have gotten at Mcgreavy, they would have lynched him. Mcgreavy cut a pathetic figure in all of his court appearances, barely looking up and around the court as he was remanded in custody.
It was just ten weeks after the brutal murders that the trial of David Mcgreavy began with him entering a guilty plea. Some of the injuries inflicted on the children were so horrific that the prosecution did not detail them in their case. As Mcgreavy had offered no plea, no motive and no claim of diminished responsibility, the trial lasted just eight scant minutes. On Monday 30 July 1973, David Mcgreavy was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murders of the three Ralph children. Due to the nature of the “exceptionally horrific crimes”, the judge, Mr Justice Simon, set the minimum time served at no less than twenty years before Mcgreavy could even be considered for release.
As a child killer, Mcgreavy has been the subject of much hatred whilst serving his sentence, and has been attacked and assaulted on several occasions. His cell has been regularly trashed and smashed up, his possessions covered with urine and excrement. He has spent a large chunk of his prison years living under the protection of Rule 43, which caters for those prisoners deemed vulnerable or those that need protection for their own safety. But on several occasions over the years, he has been placed in general population or open prison conditions. However, this has always been revoked after an attack, or when fellow prisoners have learned of the extent of Mcgreavy’s crimes. But at other times, Mcgreavy is said to have revelled in his notoriety, even reportedly once challenging Moors Murderer Ian Brady to a fight to prove which of them was the most notorious killer in Britain.
Since being incarcerated, Mcgreavy has applied for parole on at least nine separate occasions, and each time has been denied. In 2006, Mcgreavy was however being prepared for parole due to the amount of time he had served, and was staying at a bail hostel in Liverpool. It was leaked to the national press that Mcgreavy had been allowed to walk around Liverpool unsupervised in preparation for release, and his photograph appeared in the local and national newspapers.
As his name was once again in the news, knowing the feelings and public outrage that his crimes could still stir up, Mcgreavy was sent back to prison, under closed conditions. In 2009, Mcgreavy tried again in a bid to be moved back to open conditions, this time using human rights laws in an attempt to claim anonymity. This anonymity order was granted, and he was only ever referred to as Prisoner M. However, he was told that he would have to remain in closed conditions, but would not be named to protect him from the very real likelihood of attack. It also meant that the press were not allowed to report on his applications for parole. This order lasted four years, but was quashed in 2013. By this time, Mcgreavy had served 40 years in prison, twice his original recommended minimum sentence. When the order was lifted on 22 May 2013, and his identity became known, Mcgreavy’s bed was urinated on and human excrement was smeared on his cell walls. He was immediately transferred to closed conditions in a vulnerable prisoner’s unit in HMP Warren Hill, in Suffolk, where he remains to this day.
The horrific nature of Mcgreavy’s crimes meant that the ripples were, and still are, felt far and wide. Clive and Elsie Ralph divorced not long after the murders, the horror that Mcgreavy had inflicted upon their lives being too much for them to take. Of Clive there is no record. Interviewed 40 years later, Elsie (who since remarried and changed her name), still reflected upon her feelings towards Mcgreavy, and how much the “Monster of Worcester” still haunts her every waking moment:
“He doesn’t deserve human rights, he’s not even human…..I think about what he did every minute of every day because he took my life away. I can’t go to family parties anymore, I can’t celebrate anything..I can’t and will never move on. For what he did to my three children and me he deserves the same treatment that they got – death. He applied again for parole in 2009 and it was denied but every time he goes for it I’m terrified they’re going to let him out. I won’t find peace until he is dead and I am laid to rest with my babies.” – Elsie Urry (interviewed in 2013)
Newspaper reporters who covered the crimes in 1973 are still haunted by the horror of what they saw. One, Tony Bishop, says all he can think of is:
“We saw these railings, these horrible railings. And the blood was congealed upon the railings” – Tony Bishop (former Worcester News reporter)
It is unknown when, indeed if, David Mcgreavy will ever be released from custody. But even if he is, the life sentence for those affected by the crimes of the Monster Of Worcester remains never-ending.
The True Crime Enthusiast