Case File #0223
David McGreavy
The Monster of Worcester
"What's this all about?"
A close friend of the Ralph Family, David McGreavy moved in as their lodger in 1972 and would often play with the three Ralph children, helping to babysit whilst their parents were working. On the evening of Friday 13 April 1973, Clive and Elsie Ralph returned home to find the police already there, and were told their three small children were dead. McGreavy was later picked up by police walking the streets in a drunken state. Although they were in his care, he initially denied all responsibility, but later confessed in detail about what had happened to the Ralph children. His story would shock even the most hardened police detectives who considered it one of the most brutal and senseless of crimes.
David Anthony McGreavy was born in 1951 in Southport to Thomas and Bella McGreavy as the second eldest of six children. His father, Thomas was a sergeant in the Royal Signal's of the British Army and because of this the family spent a lot of time moving from one army base to another. David's education was sporadic at this time, because he was being schooled on an army base in England and then the family would move to Germany where he would have to reintegrate to his surroundings. His mother later said they found the time in Germany as the happiest for the family. His childhood was considered quite normal and his mother only later recalled one incident out of the ordinary. It was during the time when the McGreavy family were living in Cardiff. David had stolen his mother's shopping money and used it to take a trip to Liverpool.
In 1967, at the age of 15 he left school and wanting to live up to his fathers high expectations, he enlisted in the Royal Navy and was stationed at Portsmouth Naval Base in the late 1960's where he was posted to his first ship, the HMS Eagle. There McGreavy found himself on the receiving end of several disciplinary measures due to his insubordination. His colleagues found him to be quite arrogant and some described him as having a cocky attitude, which resulted in him to getting into trouble with his superiors. By 1971 he was working as a steward in the mess hall at Royal Navy Air Service Brawdy in Pembrokeshire. One day he saw that the Chief Petty Officer had written his name in his notebook and wrongly believed he would be assigned to a different job. He then started drinking and often turned up for his watch in an inebriated state making him agitated and careless.
This behaviour culminated in an act that signalled the end of his career. He broke into the officer's ward room and set fire to a bin which had papers inside. He raised the alarm at 2:30am and professed his innocence of the crime, telling the officers it had been an accident and mistakenly dropped a cigarette into the refuse bin. McGreavy then accused of negligence and was found guilty. He was court-martialled and sentenced to 90 days detention. Because of his drinking he was also required to undergo a psychiatric evaluation. The results were never revealed by his commanding officer and were never made available for the public inspection. His impulsive behaviour was now exacerbated by the use of alcohol and was considered partly to blame for his bizarre behaviour. Due to his actions he was shore based at Portsmouth Dockyard in early January 1971 after a tour of the Far East aboard the HMS Eagle.
Around this time he began correspondence with a woman called Mary and from January to April 1971 they would exchange two letters a weeks. They eventually met in April 1971, a within a week he proposed marriage to her at a Birmingham social event. After their engagement they saw each other for a further two weekends in June and July 1971. Mary suffered from numerous health problems and she told David she could end up paralysed without the proper treatment. His mother Bella disapproved on the relationship and believed Mary was a hypochondriac. However David was besotted with Mary and he disregarded his mothers concerns.
In August 1971 David was dismissed from the Navy. His childhood dream was over and in disgrace he went back to his parents house in Worcestershire. He then attempted to find work and started first as a chef and then a labourer, but was sacked from both because of his behaviour and alcoholism. Despite these setbacks, David and Mary had planned to marry and set a date for Christmas 1971. Although he had no job or money, he began to envisage a large, expensive wedding. But his fiance was getting cold feet because of his obsessive behaviour and by New Years Eve 1971, Mary had called everything off. David was left devastated. Now home with no job, no money and having been dumped by his fiancee, he began to grow lazy around his parents home, contributing little and refusing to look for work. By January 1972 his parents decide they'd had enough of his laziness and forced him to move out.

David McGreavy

He was able to move in with a childhood school friend, Clive Ralph. The Ralph family lived on Gillam Street, a quiet cul-de-sac which was considered a close-knit community, with almost every family in the street with children, and located in the Rainbow Hill district of Worcester. Clive and his wife Elsie were childhood sweethearts and she was five years younger than Clive and the couple had married in September 1968 when Elise was 16 and pregnant with their first child Paul. By the time McGreavy moved in with them, the couple also had a 20 months old daughter, Dawn and Elise was pregnant with their third child, Samantha, who was born in September 1972. Around this time David found work at a factory and was paying the Ralph's £6 per week in rent and he also sometimes helped with sunday dinner and regularly helped babysit the three Ralph children.

The Ralph Family

Although the house was now crowded, with six people occupying a small two-bed house, the family managed as bed they could with David and Paul sharing a room and the two girls staying in their parents bedroom. Clive had regular work as a lorry driver for his father and when Samantha was 7 months old, Elsie found work as a barmaid at the Punch Bowl tavern. With both parents working David found himself frequently acting as the Ralph's babysitter. His father Thomas would later comment that, "Everyone who knew David, knew that he loved children". He would frequently play with the kids and even went so far as to intervene when Elise attempted to discipline 4-year-old Paul.
On the evening of Friday 13 April 1973, 21-year-old McGreavy was drinking in a Vauxhall pub called Buck's Hill in Worcester, with a friend. Together they played darts and he drank between five and seven pints. After an altercation, in which McGreavy put his cigarette out in his friends beer, he then left the pub and was picked up by Clive Ralph and back the house so he could look after the children. Clive then went to pick Elsie up from her job, which was only about 2miles from the Ralph Home at Ronkswood and he would often go into the pub for a drink during last orders.
When Clive left at around 10:15pm, all three of the children were asleep. It was between this time and 11:15pm that something transpired in the Ralph household. McGreavy would later confess that the baby, Samantha had awoken crying for her bottle. In his drunken state, McGreavy soon lost his temper and became angry, frustrated and unable to stop her crying he began to shout back at her. When this had no effect he placed his hand over her mouth and strangled her. Then he went to the bathroom, retrieved a razor and used it cut her and then he beat her lifeless body, causing a compound fracture to her skull.
After this he went over to 2-year-old Dawn, who was still sleeping and strangled her in her bed. He then used the razor to slit her throat. Then he turned his attention to Paul and strangled him with a curtain wire as he slept. After this, he went into the basement and found a pickaxe and used it to further mutilate the childrens bodies. Finally he dragged all three bodies to the garden and impaled each of the Ralph children onto the wrought iron spiked railings fence in a neighbour's yard. McGreavy then left the home.

Crime scene

Police dog unit

The neighbours then called the police who arrived at the home found no-one home, and after talking to neighbours they began a search for the children. The area was cordoned off and an a police dog handler went to search the backyard. When he shone his flashlight on the fence he saw the ghastly sight of the Ralph children's bodies impaled. PC Bob Rees would later recall, "At first I couldn't believe what i was seeing", "during my police service I saw dead bodies of all shapes and sizes, but never anything to compare with that".
Police on the scene were sickened and horrified at the crime, with one officer vomiting because of how gruesomely the children had been murdered. Sometimes after 11:15pm Clive and Elsie Ralph returned home and saw the police were already there, who escorted them to the police station where they were told of their children's murder. At first they were considered suspects but after questioning, detectives quickly deduced who was responsible after the Ralph's told them the children had been left in the care of their lodger David McGreavy.
Several hours later, at 3:50am, McGreavy was located by officers wandering the street in Lansdowne Road near the Ralph's home. When confronted by PC Elliot he offered no resistance, merely asking, "What's this all about?". At first he denied any knowledge of the crime but several hours later he confessed to the triple murders at Gillam Street. He said, "It was me, but, it wasn’t me" and then described in graphic detail the events that transpired.
He told police, "I put my hand over her (Samantha's) mouth, and it went from there, It's all in the house. On Paul, I used a wire. I was going to bury him, but I couldn't. I went outside, and put them on the fence. All I could hear is kids, kids, kids." His only explanation for the crimes was that the baby wouldn't stop crying. Police were at a loss to explain his actions, and a psychiatric report suggested the motive could have been sexual. However those that knew him dismissed this, because he never showed any sexual interest in children before.

Officers at Gillam Street

Officer standing guard

Newspapers reported at the time in 1973 that McGreavy and Elsie Ralph had been having an affair but this was strongly denied by Elsie herself. On 16 April 1973 McGreavy appeared at Worcester Magistrates Court where he was charged with the three murder during the 10 minute session. He would then appear at further remand hearings during which he was supplied legal counsel. It was believed that the reason behind the murders might be revealed during the forthcoming trial.
However on 28 June 1973, when McGreavy appeared in court, he pleaded guilty to the murders of the three Ralph children. The hearing was over in eight minutes because he offered no defence plea, no motive and there was no case of diminished responsibility. The Judge Mr Justice Simon commented about the murders saying they were, "exceptionally horrific crimes" and added McGreavy should serve at least twenty years before released was even considered. The details of the murders and the reason why McGreavy committed such a heinous act never came out, because the process was over in quick succession. On 30 July 1973 he was sentenced to multiple life terms with minimums of 20 years.

McGreavy in custody

Six months after the murders, Elsie Ralph attempted to commit suicide. She had been placed on sedatives by her doctor and husband Clive petitioned for a divorce, because he was unable to cope with the loss of their children. Due to his notoriety he is referred to the "Monster of Worcester" by the newspapers and received substantial press coverage at the time of the trial. However the name David McGreavy was not remembered by most people because of the lack of a lengthy court process with the accompanying news coverage.
During his time in prison, McGreavy became one of the most notorious prisoners, and once challenged Ian Brady, the Moors Murderer to a fight. Once others became aware of his crimes he was subjected to numerous attacks from fellow inmates and was placed in protective custody during most of his 40 years behind bars. In 1975 he was seriously assaulted by several prisoners and the threats against his life continued. In 1991 his cell was fouled by another inmate and several days later he went into segregation.
In 1994 he was transferred to category D, meaning open conditions at Leyhill Prison, but this was later cancelled because inmates there had learned his identity from press reports. He is eventually transferred to an open prison in 1995 but is targeted by inmates who attempt to attack him, but at thwarted by guards and against in 1996 when he is seriously assaulted. He was in the papers again in 2006 when he was in the newspapers against when he was transferred to an open prison and allowed to stay at a bail hostel in Liverpool as part of his parole process.
The press received an anonymous tip and discovered 54-year-old McGreavy walking the streets of Liverpool, which resulted in him being recalled to a closed prison for his own safety after his picture featured as front page news. The MP for Worcester, Mike Foster called for McGreavy to be banned from ever returning the city again.

McGreavy in 2006

Elsie had by then remarried and was known as Elsie Urry. She found out McGreavy was spotted in an internet cafe and called upon MP Sir George Young to find out why she had not been informed. In April 2007, McGreavy made another application for parole, which was refused. By 2009 he was undergoing his seventh review hearing and his legal team pushed to allow his transfer to an open prison and they requested an anonymity order which was issued by the High Court of Justice during his parole board proceedings. He was now referred to as "Prisoner M" and his lawyer, Quicy Whitaker insisted that if his true identity were discovered by other inmates, his life would be placed in danger. She had used four sections of the Human Rights Act to keep his identity secret.
The order was resisted by the Press Association and was supported by the Secretary of State for Justice, who claimed it would set a precedent for dangerous criminals who could claim anonymity, preventing press coverage. In January 2013, McGreavy once again applied to be transferred to an open prison and was again refused. On 21 May 2013 his anonymity order was lifted by Mr. Justice Simon of the High Court of Justice and Lord Justice Pitchford of the Court of Appeal of England and Wales. They based this decision on the importance of the public interest in the possible release of a dangerous criminal. This brought more press coverage and publicity to the 40 year old case. Because of his failure to explain his motives for his crimes and his continued attempts to remain anonymous, it could be possible David McGreavy could remain in prison indefinitely.

Written by Nucleus