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  • Writer's pictureThe True Crime Edition

The Notorious Inmates of Broadmoor

Many infamous criminals have spent time in the red brick building.

Broadmoor Hospital via The Sun

Broadmoor Hospital is the oldest high-security facility in the UK. Originally named the Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum, it was built for men and women in 1863. However, contrary to popular belief, the facility isn’t a prison, and the daily operations are very different.

Instead, sessions are based around therapy rather than the usual prison practises, such as job roles. This is because patients are often diagnosed with personality disorders and mental illness and can’t be incarcerated in an ordinary reformatory prison.

In 1912, Broadmoor was overcrowded and was in desperate need of another building to house patients. A branch in Rampton, Nottinghamshire, was built and housed the overflow from Broadmoor. The unit was closed seven years later but reopened as a defective’s institution instead. Broadmoor Hospital now holds 284 beds and is just a men’s facility.

Rampton Secure Hospital had just under 400 beds, and the NHS manages both facilities.

Broadmoor has faced criticism over the years, but not even Charles Bronson’s roof protests could prepare the facility for the backlash of Jimmy Saville.


From 1968, DJ and TV presenter Jimmy Saville volunteered at Broadmoor Hospital and would talk to the patients in a room that the facility had given him for personal use.

Broadmoor CEO, Pat McGrath, believed that Saville’s presence would help with the negative publicity Broadmoor was used to. Since 1952, the hospital had been swimming against the tide to create some positive PR due to John Straffen’s escape.

Saville held a set of keys for the hospital, and patients and staff would refer to him as ‘Dr Saville’, despite having no medical training. In 1988, Saville was appointed chair of the task force managing the hospital by health minister Edwina Currie.

Eleven allegations of continuous sexual abuse by Saville were reported, however, it was believed this number was significantly low due to the lack of patients agreeing to report their abuse.

“His celebrity was seen as being of value to Broadmoor, although it is possible his association with the hospital brought more benefit to him than to it.” — West Berkshire Mental Health Trust report, 2014.

Jimmy Saville died before he faced any charges of sexual abuse under the investigation Operation Yewtree, which saw many British celebrities under criminal investigation via 14 police forces across the UK.

Jimmy Savile via Daily Record

However, Broadmoor has hosted many infamous actual patients over the years.

Robert Napper — The Plumstead Ripper

Born in February 1966, Napper was incarcerated at Broadmoor in 2004. The eldest of four siblings, his family was dysfunctional, and his parents had a violent relationship. When Napper was nine, his parents divorced, and he and his siblings were put into foster care. The children were also given psychiatric treatment due to the extensive violence they were exposed to.

Robert Napper via The Sun

Napper had Asperger’s, but at the time, his condition was undiagnosed. He was an awkward child and was rejected by others in his class at school. Then, in 1978, he was raped by a family friend whilst on holiday. He was 12 years old. The friend was imprisoned, but his personality changed excessively, becoming painfully introverted.

At 20, Napper was given a conditional discharge by police and made to pay a fine. His offence was possessing an airgun. Soon after, he confessed to his mother that he had raped a 30-year-old woman in front of her children. His mother called the police, but they had no reports of a sexual assault on Plumstead Common, where the attack took place, and there was no trace of the assault in the area.

In reality, the woman had reported the rape. A man entered the rear door of her home, which backed on to Plumstead Common, armed with a knife and wearing a mask, but he'd left his DNA behind.

Napper’s mother relinquished all contact with her son after he confessed to her. He moved out of her home and into a bedsit, where he began to stalk women frequently. The attack in Plumstead Common was the beginning of Napper’s attacks, which would eventually turn into murder.

Over the period of two months in the summer of 1992, Napper would sexually assault three women in Green Chain Walk, a popular walking route through a park in South East London. He used a knife to threaten the women, which included two 17-year-old girls.

After the three attacks, a police inquiry was set up, but investigators hadn’t yet realised that the 70 assaults of extreme violence around southeast London were connected.

In July 1992, Napper crossed the line into murder. He stabbed Rachel Nickell 49 times on Wimbledon Common. Rachel died in her young son’s arms, who begged her to wake up.

Rachel Nickell via The Mirror

Two months after Rachel Nickell’s murder, one of Napper’s neighbours called police to tell them that Napper looked like the photofit of the man accused of raping women in the Green Chain area. Napper was asked to report to his local police station to give a sample of blood, but he never showed up.

A few days later, someone else called the police realising that Napper looked like the rapist. The police once again asked him to give a blood sample, and again, Napper never visited at the police station.

Police eventually eliminated him due to his height. At 6 feet 2 inches, he was much taller than the description given of the rapist, who was described as being 5 feet 7 inches in height. However, Napper walked with a severe stoop.

The police had another suspect for the rapes; Colin Stagg. He was brought in for a police line-up before the idea was abandoned due to Stagg’s DNA not being a match. However, they still liked him for the murder of Rachel Nickell and pursued this route of inquiry until Napper struck again.

In November 1993, he stabbed 27-year-old Samantha Bisset 70 times, sexually assaulting her once she was dead. He then proceeded to do the same to her four-year-old daughter. Once they were both dead, he cut up Samantha’s body, taking her womb as a trophy. The police photographer took two years of leave after dealing with the crime scene.

Samantha and Jazmine Bissett via The Mirror

Napper left a fingerprint and a shoe print behind at Samantha’s apartment, but it would take police six months to match the prints to Napper.

In October 1995, Robert Napper was convicted at the Old Bailey after admitting to two rapes, two attempted rapes and the murders of Samantha and Jazmine Bissett. He was transferred to Broadmoor Hospital. In 2008, due to advances in technology, 42-year-old Napper was also convicted of the manslaughter of Rachel Nickell and was sent back to Broadmoor to be incarcerated indefinitely.

Colin Stagg was eventually cleared of all charges and released. However, he criticised investigators for using a ‘honey-trap’ undercover policewoman and relying too heavily on profiling. He was awarded over £700,000 in compensation.

Robert Napper is now 54 and still resides at Broadmoor Hospital. He was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and Asperger’s on his arrival.

Rachel Nickell’s son, who survived the attack, has since written a book about his mother’s life and how to continue living after loss.

Thomas Ley and the Chalk Pit Murder

Born in October 1880, Thomas Ley is said to have been the wealthiest patient at Broadmoor Hospital.

At six years old, Ley and his family moved from Bath, England, to Australia after his father died and started a new life. At 14, Ley found work as a junior stenographer. He had taught himself shorthand whilst working on a dairy farm by transcribing political speeches printed in newspapers. Four years later, he married Emily Vernon, known as Lewie and had two children. The couple became strong activists, with Ley holding the job as a state and federal politician for almost ten years.

Thomas Ley, Lewie and son Clive via

Jumping around the different political parties, Ley advocated the Nationalist party, the St George party and the Progressive party.

Known as ‘Lemonade Ley’, due to his apparent sober lifestyle, he was accused of disloyalty when he backed the easing of alcohol sale requirements. The allegations were confirmed as he was being paid by the brewery division to support the bill. Despite the valid claims, he was appointed the New South Wales Minister for Justice from 1922 through to 1925. It was here that he met Maggie Brook, the wife of a magistrate who died soon after an introduction to Ley.

After he was appointed Minister for Justice, Ley had his sights set on a Federal House of Representatives seat. He bribed his opponent, Frederick McDonald, with a share in a property, but instead, McDonald revealed the bribe.

Despite the public exposure, Ley still won the election and took the seat. McDonald took the matter to court, but he mysteriously disappeared. Failure to appear meant that the case would be thrown out of court.

His peers and Prime Minister Stanley Bruce began to realise that Ley was not the gentleman they thought he was, and he was removed from consideration for ministerial preferment.

In 1928, a man investigating Ley and his involvement in a chemical company was found dead of an apparent suicide. State legislator, Hyman Goldstein, was discovered on the cliffs below ‘Suicide Point’ in Coogee.

Another businessman who was sent to investigate Ley was travelling on a boat when he fell overboard and drowned. Keith Greedor was a former peer of Ley’s and was hired by a party concerned about Ley’s political dealings.

Ley returned to England in 1928, shortly after these incidents with Maggie Brook, leaving his wife, Lewie, in Australia. After a life in politics, he began dabbling in the black market, promoting scams and dodgy property deals, barely avoiding prison each time.

In 1946, the couple were living in Wimbledon, despite Ley’s wife returning from Australia to live in London four years earlier. Over the years, Ley had become paranoid and began to suspect Maggie Brook, now 66, of having an affair with John Mudie, a barman.

He enlisted the help of some of his shady friends, builder Lawrence Smith and wrestler John Buckingham. The two men, along with a woman named Lillian Bruce, who was presented as a ‘honey-trap’, delivered John Mudie to Ley’s home. He was viciously beaten by Smith and Ley and eventually strangled. He was disposed of at a chalk pit that Smith had decided was a good dumping ground for the body.

The body was found, and Scotland Yard appealed for witnesses two weeks before Christmas. John Buckingham came forward with Lillian Bruce to tell the police about the kidnapping they were part of and gave up Thomas Ley and Lawrence Smith.

Thomas Ley newspaper clipping via

Thomas Ley was arrested two weeks later and was sentenced at the Old Bailey. The money trail from Ley to the Smith, Buckingham and Bruce was condemning, and the jury deliberated for under an hour. Thomas Ley and Lawrence Smith were found guilty of the murder of John Mudie and were sentenced to execution in May 1947.

Doctors who examined Ley confirmed that he was suffering from paranoia and declared him insane, sending him to Broadmoor hospital rather than execution. Smith’s sentence of death was also overturned, and instead, he faced life in prison.

Thomas Ley only resided at Broadmoor for two months before he died of a meningeal haemorrhage in July 1947. He was survived by his wife and sons, who returned to Australia.

Graham Young — The Teacup Poisoner

Born in Middlesex, England, in September 1947, Young was one of the few released from Broadmoor Hospital.

Graham Young as a child via

A few months after his birth, he was sent to live with his aunt and uncle after his mother died of tuberculosis. In 1950, he returned to live with his father and his new stepmother, Molly but reacted severely after being removed from his aunt’s home.

An intelligent boy, Young passed the eleven-plus exam and was accepted to grammar school. However, he was fascinated by poison from a young age, and in 1961 he began testing different toxins on his family, some making them incredibly ill.

His stepmother Molly bore the brunt of his experiments and suffered from vomiting, diarrhoea, and terrible stomach pain. Several of Young’s classmates were also ill from a mysterious bug with similar symptoms to Molly’s.

In November, Young handed his sister, Winifred, a cup of tea before she went to work one morning. The tea tasted odd, and so she only had one sip before leaving the cup on the counter and catching her train into work. During her journey, she began to hallucinate and was taken to hospital where the doctors told her she had been given Atropa belladonna, or deadly nightshade.

On Easter Sunday the following year, Molly died. Young’s father became ill soon after and was taken to the hospital. Young’s aunt, who had looked after him as a child, became suspicious of all these illnesses and now death. However, she knew that her nephew was fascinated by poisons and chemistry and began her investigation. She spoke to the science teacher at Young’s grammar school, who found bottles of various toxins in the student’s desk.

Graham Young was arrested on the 23rd of May 1962 and confessed to the attempted murders of his father, sister and school friend. Because Molly had already been cremated, Young would not be tried for her murder. He was 14 years old.

Graham Young via The Mirror

Young was sent to Broadmoor Hospital and was the youngest inmate at the facility. He was examined by doctors who confirmed he was suffering from schizophrenia, a personality disorder and autism. It was also rumoured that he poisoned John Berridge, another inmate at the hospital, by extracting cyanide from a laurel bush. Young was never charged.

In February 1971, Young was released from Broadmoor Hospital, with the prison psychologist Dr Udwin claiming that Young was “no longer obsessed in poisons, violence and mischief”. Nevertheless, he served nine years at the facility.

Young’s sister was pleased that he was being released and offered him a bed at her home, which she shared with her husband, Dennis. After a week, Young had found a job in Slough and moved out of Winifred’s home and into a hostel.

Shortly after he arrived at the hostel, another resident, Trevor Sparkes, fell ill with stomach pains and ended up in hospital after collapsing during a football game. Doctors couldn’t find a cause for the pain, and he ended up committing suicide due to the intense, continuous pain he suffered.

Young found a job close by in Hertfordshire in a photographic laboratory. Shortly before his new role started, Young had travelled into London to buy antimony potassium tartrate from a chemist, using the fake ID he had kept from years earlier. Young was more than happy to make the tea at his new job for his colleagues.

He began to poison his workmates, and the first to fall ill was Bob Egle, a manager in his late fifties. Bob began to take long periods off work because of illness. After returning from holiday and feeling as good as new, Bob began to fall ill again and was taken to hospital with numb fingers and terrible pain. Eventually, the numbness consumed his entire body, and he was paralysed and lost the ability to speak. Bob Egle died on the 7th July 1971, 10 days after his admittance to the hospital.

Fred Biggs was another of Young’s victims at work. He would lend Young money for bus fare and give him cigarettes. He suffered the same symptoms as Bob Egle, and his skin began to peel, and he suffered blindness. His body was so sensitive, he couldn’t bear the weight of a bedsheet and eventually died. He wasn’t the last colleague at the laboratory to succumb to severe illness.

Young was lacing his colleagues’ drinks with different poisons to watch the effects and to confuse doctors. Jethro Batt became ill quickly after drinking tea and was eventually hospitalised and considered suicide due to his immense pain. Diana Smart had terrible smelling feet from the poison that she drank. Peter Buck and David Tilson’s hair fell out in clumps and were impotent for some time after drinking the tea.

Young kept a diary, recorded the meticulous details of his colleagues’ symptoms, and analysed the progress of their illnesses.

“F [Fred] is now seriously ill. He has developed paralysis and blindness. Even if the blindness is reverse, organic brain disease would render him a husk. From my point of view, his death would be a relief. It would remove one more casualty from an already crowded field of battle.”

Once Fred Biggs had died, the company’s doctor met with the remaining staff to console them and reassure them that whatever was making their colleagues ill was not due to hygiene in the office. Young quizzed the doctors, asking if the cause of the illness could be from thallium poisoning, which hadn’t been considered due to the chemical not having been used as a poison before. The doctor informed the company owner of the young clerk’s interest, who in turn told the police.

Once scientists had confirmed that the sickness was due to the thallium, the police searched Young’s hostel room and found his diaries, detailing the poisoning. They also found Nazi memorabilia covering his walls and bottles of poisons lining his windowsill.

On the 21st November 1971, Young was arrested at his father’s home in Kent. Once captured, he admitted to the poisonings and to killing his stepmother years earlier, calling it ‘the perfect murder’.

Young’s trial lasted ten days, where he pleaded not guilty for his crimes, citing his diary as the beginning of a novel. However, he was sentenced to life in prison and was transferred to Parkhurst on the Isle of Wight, where he befriended Ian Brady due to their attraction to Nazi Germany.

Graham Young died on the 1st of August 1990, aged 42, from a heart attack. His waxwork was installed in the Chamber of Horrors at Madame Tussaud’s museum years later.

In 2001, Ian Brady’s book The Gates of Janus was published, detailing Brady’s time in prison and included a study on his friend Graham Young.

“Young was an ardent admirer of Dr Josef Mengele, the German concentration camp doctor known as ‘The Angel of Death,’ and had his boyishly handsome looks. Emulating another idol, Young sometimes grew a Hitler moustache, fastidiously trimming it with a razor until the skin around it was red raw and the prison staff had to stop him…Graham Young would probably be regarded by some as — to use a recently fashionable term — a ‘natural born killer’.”


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