The case of David McGreavy and the appalling acts of violence he carried out on three small children in 1973 in Worcester, England is one difficult to comprehend. Entrusted by the children’s parents with their care on that night, a couple he lodged with and considered his friends, he betrayed them in the worst way possible.
On 13 April 1973, David McGreavy systematically killed 8-month-old Samantha Ralph, 2-year-old Dawn Ralph, and 4-year-old Paul Ralph, mutilated their bodies with a pickaxe before impaling each child’s body on a neighbour’s fence. It is understandable why this man was labelled the ‘Monster of Worcester’. This case did not need a lengthy investigation to find who had carried out such a crime and with an immediate guilty plea, McGreavy spent less than 20 minutes in a courtroom hearing his fate.
At 22-years-old David McGreavy had led a fairly uneventful life. He joined the Royal Navy in his teens following the footsteps of his father, a sergeant in the British Army, into military service. He lasted just four years before being court-martialled for a fire-setting incident destroying property inside his base. Upon his exit from the Navy, his girlfriend ended their relationship and his life went into a free-fall of temporary jobs and alcohol abuse.
He had returned to live with his parents after losing his job in the military but his behaviour and lack of focus on sorting his life out and finding a stable path and career led to arguments and McGreavy was asked to leave the family home. This was why he ended up living with the Ralph family. Being friends with Clive Ralph for many years, his friend offered him a bed at his home giving him a roof over his head and the opportunity to build his life into something meaningful. He would often babysit the three children; with both Clive and Elsie Ralph working shifts and they had no concern leaving their children in his care.
On the night of the murder, Clive had left to collect his wife from her bar job, leaving McGreavy in charge of the children. By the time they returned to their home they were greeted by a sea of police cars and flashing lights. Taken to the local police station officers broke the news that each of their three children were dead. David McGreavy was not at the crime scene and was found wandering the streets some hours later. Upon his arrest, after initially claiming he had no idea why the police wanted to speak with him, he confessed to the murders, telling officers the baby was crying and he had strangled her to stop the noise.
On the night of the murders, David McGreavy was intoxicated, not thinking clearly and easily angered, killing each child one after the other in a prolonged attack. After killing the children, McGreavy went into the basement of the home and collected a pickaxe, using it to mutilate the bodies before carrying them outside and impaling them on the neighbour’s fence. This was not a brief act of violence on one child. It was a brutal and vicious attack which he intensified rather than coming to his senses and stopping what he was doing.
“These were indescribable acts of brutality that still sicken the people of Worcester when they recollect the events.” – MP Mike Foster
These types of crimes carried out by friends or family members are the crimes which shock us the most. A person capable of such horrific violence and against children we hope is someone we would be able to spot coming and protect those we love, but in reality, as this case shows, a person can turn and do something so incomprehensible regardless of who they are and the relationships present.
David McGreavy was sentenced to three life terms for the murders of the Ralph children, with a minimum sentence to be served of 20 years. His identity was sealed for a four-year period until 2013 in an attempt to transfer him to an open prison, however, it was decided it was in the public interest to name the man who had carried out a crime that shocked Worcester to the core, and the idea of an open prison placement was shut down.
Now, 44 years on, David McGreavy is still behind bars with all attempts at parole having failed. “This man took three children’s lives. He should have got the electric chair,” the children’s mother told the Telegraph on the prospect of his release. The severity of his crime and the spontaneous nature of it has left understandable concern as to whether this man can ever be released and be safe within the community.
There are sadly plenty of tragic and horrific cases within the UK of individuals who have carried out the murder of a child. From parents to caregivers, to siblings and strangers but the McGreavy case is significant both from the level of violence and brutality in his crime and from the fact there was no trial. He admitted his guilt and did not have a defense to give. There is no doubt these murders were committed when David McGreavy was under the influence of alcohol, but this does little to mitigate against the actions he carried out that night or to help quell the clear evidence that at 22-years-old he was an incredibly dangerous individual.
He has spent over 40 years behind bars, much of which inside prisoner protection unit’s as any attempts for McGreavy to live within the general population of the prison have resulted in attacks from other prisoners who are aware of his crimes. In 2006 it looked like he was about to be released after being spotted in a bail hostel in Liverpool. However, after news of his case once again hit the headlines, he was soon sent back to prison. After being denied parole once again in June 2016, he will be eligible to apply again in 2018.
David McGreavy is now 66-years-old. Whether he will ever be released from prison now is doubtful and time is running out for him. McGreavy is one of the longest serving prisoners in the UK and may well remain behind bars for the rest of his natural life.