In 1973, 22-year-old David McGreavy moved in with his friend Clive Ralph and his wife, Elsie. The young couple had three children – 4-year-old Paul, 2-year-old Dawn and 9-month-old Samantha. McGreavy had an alcohol problem and this was the reason why he had been kicked out of his parents’ home. Luckily, Clive took him under his wing and offered him a place to stay at their terraced house in Gillam Street, Worcester, United Kingdom. McGreavy paid the Ralphs £6 per week in rent and sometimes helped cooking the Sunday dinner.
Clive and Elsie were both hard workers who did their very best to provide a good life for their children. Clive worked long hours as a lorry driver while Elsie worked as a barmaid. When they worked, oftentimes McGreavy would be entrusted to care for the three children.
According to those who knew them, it genuinely appeared as though McGreavy enjoyed spending time with the children and was said to act “like a father” to them. In fact, his own parents would state: “Everyone who knew David knew that he loved children.”1 Elsie would say that McGreavy was always doing things for the children and on one occasion, he had even admonished her for how strict she could be with them.
On Friday the 13th of April, 1973, McGreavy went to Vauxhall pub and drank several pints of beer. He got into an altercation with a friend after he put his cigarette in his beer. From the pub, David went home to look after the three children. Clive was driving to pick Elsie up from her job at the Punch Bowl Tavern. Quite often, Clive would help Elsie close up the pub for the night and this night was no different. In fact, they decided they would have one last drink before returning home shortly before midnight.
As they were approaching the family home, police were already there.
Shortly after McGreavy was left alone with the children, Samantha started to cry for her bottle. For reasons unknown, this infuriated McGreavy. Instead of reaching for Samantha’s bottle like he had done numerous times beforehand, he grabbed Samantha and swung her repeatedly against the wall. She had hit the wall with such brutality that her skull had been shattered. McGreavy then picked up a razor blade and slashed Dawn’s throat before strangling Paul to death with a piece of curtain wire. McGreavy then retrieved a piceaxe from the basement and proceeded to mutilate the three children.
Arguably the most horrifying aspect of the crime came afterwards when McGreavy took the lifeless bodies of the three children and impaled them on a spiked gate in their neighbor’s garden. Detective Chief Superintendent Bob Booth would state: “No investigating officer has ever had to witness such a scene of indescribable horror.” In fact, one of the responding officers was physically sick at the crime scene.
McGreavy was apprehended at 3:05AM in nearby Landsdowne Road. At first, he denied any knowledge of the grisly crime but by the following day, he would make a full confession. He broke down as he said: “It was all too bloody gruesome. It was me but it was not me. How could I do it?” When queried about a motivation, McGreavy said that Samantha was crying. He would plead guilty to the three murders and was sentenced to life in prison with a minimum of 20 years.
At the time of the murders, McGreavy had not been publicly named and was simply known as “The Monster of Worcester.” During his time in prison, he was frequently targeted by other inmates and spent the majority of his time under protection. On one occasion, however, he challenged Ian Brady to a fight to prove that he was the “most notorious” killer.
In 2006, McGreavy was transferred to an open prison and stayed in a hostel in Liverpool. After news of his transfer hit headlines, it was met by outrage; he was transferred back to a closed prison. A couple of years later, the anonymity order preventing naming him would be lifted by the high court. Initially, he had been protected by the anonymity order out of fears the publicity would put him in danger from others prisoners and disrupt the parole process. However, the high court ruled that while renewed hostility from other inmates was likely to happen, there was no real and immediate threat to his life. This meant that the world now knew that David McGreavy was “The Monster of Worcester.”2
In 2016, it was announced in the media that McGreavy could potentially be released from prison and was being considered for parole. The announcement struck fear and anger within the community where the crime had taken place as well as within the family of the victims. John Nicholls, who was Clive’s cousin, said that the horrific events were still fresh in everyone’s minds. He said: “My opinion is he should never be let out. He shouldn’t be allowed any kind of freedom. To me, a life sentence should be life.” At the time of the murders, John had been working the night shift when a colleague informed him that three children had been murdered. He stated: “I didn’t put two and two together until later that morning.”3
Two years later, the community’s greatest fears were confirmed when it was announced that McGravy had been cleared for release by the parole board. Upon learning of the grim news, Elsie would state: “What this animal did to my children was every bit as bad as what the Moors Murderers did. But Ian Brady and Myra Hindley never left prison before they died so why the hell should he? He put my babies on spikes for God’s sake – he mutilated them and they died in agony.” She said that following McGreavy’s trial, they had been reassured that the crime was so heinous that McGreavy would never be released from prison. “But despite begging them to keep him locked up, I have now been betrayed,” she said.4
According to the parole board, over the 45 years McGreavy had spend behind bars, he had changed “considerably.” They wrote that he had developed self-control as well as a considerable understanding of the problems he had and what had caused them. According to a psychologist, there were a number of factors that made it less likely that McGreavy would reoffend in the future, including improved self-control and the fact that he had learned to remain calm while under stressful situations. They also found that he had shown himself to be compliant and co-operative with authority, adding that a network of supportive friends within the community would be a protective factor.
In 2019, McGreavy was released from prison. According to the Ministry of Justice, he was released under strict conditions, including a curfew and a tag as well as conditions that he was banned from Worcester as well as the area that Elsie now lived.5
- Daily Mirror, 27 July, 1973 – “The Crazed Lodger Who Slaughtered Three Babes”
- The Guardian, 22 May, 2013 – “Triple Child Killer David McGreavy Can be Named”
- Worcester News, 10 June, 2016 – “Relative of Murdered Children Says Killer David McGreavy Should Never be Let Out”
- Coventry Telegraph, 4 December, 2018 – “Child Killer David McGreavy to be Released from Prison
- Press Association Newswire, 11 June, 2019 – “Triple Child Killer David McGreavy Released from Prison”