Whilst David McGreavy is nowhere near as famous as Ian Brady, he was nevertheless one of Britain's most notorious and brutal child killers, being variously known as 'The Gillam Street Killer', 'The Monster of Worcester', and 'The Friday the 13th Killer'.
Originally from Stockport, David McGreavy signed up for the Royal Navy but was later "forced out" for some misdemeanour or other and thereafter became classified as an unemployed labourer. He ended up at Worcester in 1973, when he spent much of his time drinking at the Vauxhall Inn on Astwood Road, which is where he met a lorry driver named Clive Ralph. By March 1973 McGreavy had moved in with Clive and his wife Dorothy at their home on Gillam Street in the Rainbow Hill district of Worcester. Exactly what financial arrangements where in place isn't clear, but it seems that in return for a roof over his head, McGreavy was prepared to babysit for their three children; four year-old Paul Kenneth, two year-old Dawn Maria, and nine month-old Samantha Jane.
It appears that the weekday routine in the Ralph household was for Dorothy Ralph to leave for work each evening as a barmaid whilst McGreavy went out drinking at the Vauxhall Inn. When closing time came around, Clive would put the children to bed, collect McGreavy from the pub and leave him to look after the children, while he went and collected his wife from work, returning home each evening at around midnight.
Just before midnight on the 12th April 1973, the couple returned home as per usual to find that baby Samantha had a bloodshot eye and a bruised cheek, whilst her arm also appeared to have been hurt in some way. On the following day her mother took Samantha to the Accident and Emergency Department at Worcester Royal Infirmary where she was examined by Dr Charles Romer, a local GP who was on duty at the time. He suspected abuse and recommended that she be admitted to hospital and made a note to that effect. This however wasn't noticed by the hospital consultant who allowed Samantha home at about tea-time. Things might have turned out differently had Samantha been admitted.
When the Ralphs returned home just before midnight on the 13th April they found no sign of either McGreavy or their children. They did however find the house in a mess with blood splattered in various locations. They naturally called the police, who searched the house, and then the immediate area. It was at twenty past one on the morning of the 14th April that a police officer then found all three of the children impaled on the iron railings in the garden next door. At five minutes past three the police found McGreavy wandering along the Lansdowne Road nearby and promptly took him into custody.
Interviewed the next afternoon he apparently broke down and said "It was me, it wasn't me. She wouldn't stop crying. I put my hand across her face and carried on from there." As he further explained in his formal statement: "I picked her out of the cot, tried to nurse her to stop crying. She still wouldn't so I cut off her breath. I picked up a razor blade and used it on her. I did the same to Dawn and I strangled Paul with a piece of curtain wire. I was going to bury them but changed my mind and picked up a pickaxe and used it on them. I then took them into the garden and stuck them on a fence and then left."
As it happens this explanation of events wasn't quite accurate; Samantha had actually died of a compound skull fracture, which led the authorities to surmise that she'd been repeatedly battered against a wall or some other hard surface, and was therefore already dead by the time that McGreavy took the razor blade to her. It is of course bad enough that someone would kill one child, let alone three all at once, but all three also suffered "shocking wounds" from the battering that McGreavy inflicted on their bodies with the pickaxe handle, before he then decided to impale their lifeless bodies on the iron railings in the garden next door. To this day McGreavy has never provided any explanation of his actions, or at least none that has ever made its way into the public record.
David McGreavy appeared before Worcester Magistrates on the 16th April when he was remanded in custody and committed for trail at Worcester Crown Court. His trial duly opened on the 28th July 1973 with Mr Justice Ashworth presiding, John Field Evans appearing for the defence and Michael Underhill leading the prosecution. It was heard that McGreavy had no history of previous violence, but to everyone's surprise no less than three psychiatric reports showed no grounds for a plea of insanity and concluded that McGreavy was therefore quite sane and fit to plead. Of course in the circumstances McGreavy had little alternative other than to plead guilty, and it was therefore mercifully a short trial. Mr Justice Ashworth delivered his verdict on the 30th July 1973, and sentenced McGreavy to life imprisonment and recommended that, "so appaling was the crime" and "so grave the risk of repetition", he serve a minimum of twenty years, whilst noting the contents of medical report which said that McGreavy was quite capable of doing the same thing again and that it would be long time before he could be released, if ever.
McGreavy later served much of his time at Long Lartin Prison, although he did spend some time at Wormwood Scrubs where his path crossed with that of Ian Brady, and where apparently there was an altercation between the two of them. It it said that this was because McGreavy had decided to stand up to Brady, although a report prepared in 2002 by a psychologist named Michael Heaps noted that others had "a more sinister interpretation of this confrontation, namely that it was due to a conflict of status between two notorious child murderers."
McGreavy later studied for an art degree and one of his paintings was exhibited in a Birmingham gallery. He was moved to Ford Open Prison in Sussex in 1994, which indicated that the authorities were considering him for release, since he had by then served his twenty years.
McGreavy hit the headlines once more in January 2006 when it became known that McGreavy had been taking a number of unsupervised breaks at a bail hostel in Liverpool. He had apparently been spotted over the previous six weeks roaming the streets of Liverpool and had also been seen visiting an internet cafe in the Clayton Square shopping centre.
Despite the fact that it had been thirty-three years since the murders in Gillam Street had taken place, people had not forgotten the events of Friday the 13th all those years ago, and many people were outraged by the news that McGreavy was, if only briefly, at liberty. The media managed to track down Dorothy Ralph, or Dorothy Urry as she was now known, who offered her opinion that McGreavy should have been "given the electric chair" and complained, "Why should this man be allowed out of prison to start a new life? He is still torturing me and this pain is going to be with me until I die."
The Chief Constable of Merseyside Police was also unhappy about the idea of a child killer wandering about the streets of Liverpool unsupervised and wrote to the Home Secretary to make his views known, whilst two local Members of Parliament, Mike Foster (Worcester) and Peter Luff (Mid-Worcestershire) were particularly anxious that McGreavy should be prevented from ever returning to Worcester.
The end result was that McGreavy was moved from Ford to the category B Lewes Prison in East Sussex. According to The Sun this was at his own request as he apparently feared that for his own safety as a result of the recent publicity. As was later reported on the 10th April 2007, his bid for parole was turned down and he therefore remains in prison.
- Killing of three children alleged, The Times, Tuesday, Apr 17, 1973
- Killer of three children is jailed for life, The Times, Tuesday, Jul 31, 1973
- Gillam Street Killer Enjoys Day Out, 3rd Jan 2006
- Deborah James And Graham Davies, Parole review outcry, Liverpool Daily Post, Jan 3 2006
- Horror We'll Never Forget, 4th Jan 2006
- MP calls for child killer ban
- John Kay, Child killer is caged, The Sun, 06 Jan 2006
- Child killer's parole bid refused, 10 April 2007