READ TINA WEAVER’S UN­MISS­ABLE NEW COL­UMN

The Scottish Mail on Sunday - - News -

IT WAS the words ‘im­paled on rail­ings’ that took my breath away. And the pic­ture of three rosy-cheeked tod­dlers. I thought I was in­ured to shock but then I read about a crime so bar­baric, it stops you in your tracks. apol­o­gise to read­ers for the graphic de­tail in what fol­lows but I be­lieve you need to know about it. Be­cause the most shock­ing thing of all is that a Pa­role Board panel has just de­cided that the mon­ster who did it should be freed.

Baby Saman­tha Ralph, just nine months old, was blud­geoned to death. Next, her sis­ter Dawn, two, had her throat slit.

Then their four-year-old brother Paul was stran­gled with wire. The chil­dren were also beaten with a pick­axe han­dle and their bat­tered bod­ies im­paled on a neigh­bour’s gar­den fence.

The mur­derer was David McG­reavy, a fam­ily friend and lodger, who was babysit­ting. He blamed his mur­der­ous spree on Saman­tha’s cry­ing for her milk bot­tle that evening – Fri­day, April 13, 1973. He was also drunk.

The chil­dren’s mother, Elsie, was out do­ing a part-time job in the lo­cal pub to earn ex­tra cash – the fam­ily were sav­ing to buy their own home. Her hus­band Clive went to col­lect her and asked McG­reavy to keep an eye on the chil­dren.

Then 21, he had been lodg­ing with the fam­ily af­ter fall­ing out with his own par­ents. Oc­ca­sion­ally he’d cook Sun­day lunch and even shared a room with young Paul. There were no hint of the hor­rors to come.

‘He played with the chil­dren – he was nor­mal,’ re­calls Elsie.

But his sub­se­quent out­burst wasn’t just a hot-tem­pered spasm. It was a sus­tained at­tack on three de­fence­less chil­dren, end­ing in a sick­en­ing, pub­lic dis­play of evil.

‘All I can hear is kids, kids, kids,’ he told po­lice.

The Pa­role Board’s ex­pla­na­tion for free­ing him is so glibly in­ad­e­quate that they could be de­scrib­ing a se­rial speed­ing of­fender. They say that McG­reavy, now 67, has ‘changed con­sid­er­ably’, and has ‘de­vel­oped self-con­trol… to re­main calm in stress­ful sit­u­a­tions’.

Af­ter in­ter­view­ing McG­reavy, and a psy­chol­o­gist who ex­am­ined him, the Board con­cluded that he is ‘no sig­nif­i­cant risk to the pub­lic’.

I grew up not far from where Saman­tha, Dawn and Paul were killed. To my mother’s gen­er­a­tion, McG­reavy was known lo­cally as the ‘Mon­ster of Worces­ter’, as in­fa­mous as the Moors Mur­der­ers.

But be­cause he ad­mit­ted his crimes (the court case lasted just eight min­utes) he did not gain wider no­to­ri­ety. I’d never heard of him until last week.

As McG­reavy looks for­ward to free­dom, Elsie ex­ists in a tor­tu­ous twi­light world.

Her mar­riage col­lapsed soon af­ter the killings and she has at­tempted sui­cide twice.

Her only com­fort is be­liev­ing she’ll be re­united with her chil­dren one day. Of course, she wrote to the Pa­role Board but the pleas of vic­tims carry lit­tle weight.

‘I see my chil­dren’s faces ev­ery night when I close my eyes and try to sleep’, she says. ‘How can the Pa­role Board de­cide he’s served his sen­tence when mine will never end?’

Of course, such de­ci­sions must be made on pro­fes­sional as­sess­ment, not emo­tion. But I don’t be­lieve any psy­chol­o­gist can re­ally know what lurks in the deep­est re­cesses of the brain to make some­one ca­pa­ble of such sav­agery.

McG­reavy will be in­sti­tu­tion­alised af­ter so long in prison so it’s im­pos­si­ble to pre­dict how he will re­spond to life on the out­side. Yet the Pa­role Board think it’s worth the risk.

Af­ter Christ­mas, McG­reavy will go to a bail hos­tel where he will be closely mon­i­tored.

My god-daugh­ter works in a sim­i­lar half­way house, su­per­vis­ing mur­der­ers and child sex of­fend­ers. When I asked what they were like, she replied ‘ma­nip­u­la­tive’, ad­ding: ‘They’re clever, schem­ing and will do what it takes to be freed.’

Christ­mas is the grimmest time for Elsie. ‘It hurts so much be­cause I feel what would have been if my chil­dren would have been there’, she says.

But for the Mon­ster of Worces­ter, this Christ­mas will most likely be his best ever.

HEART­BREAK­ING: Elsie with her chil­dren shortly be­fore they were mur­dered

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