Tuesday, January 03, 2006

The Bogey Man

A report on the local news this morning brought back to me an event that overshadowed my childhood, as I grew up in Worcester. Michael Foster, MP for Worcester, is saying that convicted murderer David McGreavy should not be allowed to return to Worcester once he is released from his 30+ year jail term, since Worcester is the scene of his crimes, and the crimes were so horrific, and the damage to the town itself was so great.

When I heard this, I didn't know who David McGreavy was. It was only the mention of "horrific murders of three small children" that dislodged the memory. And even then, I couldn't be sure. The memory was real enough (albeit hazy), but was it a memory of a real event or just a local legend, concocted to keep small children on the straight and narrow?

What I remembered (before doing a bit of research just now) was that, sometime in the early 70s, a man had taken three small children and impaled them on the iron railings at the bottom of his garden. I never knew why he had done this, nor what had led up to it. No grown-up ever wanted to supply the details. All I knew for sure was that the murders had taken place in Gillam Street, which is just a few yards from where I lived for a while as a child.

Up until we moved there, I had always put this crime down to the bogey man. (Aged around nine, me and some friends were convinced we had found where THE actual bogey man lives, and went looking for him. Brave or what? But that's another tale...) Who else could do such a crime? The bogey man had come and taken these kids and killed them, just like in the fairy tales. Simple. Crime solved (to my young mind). But then, moving into this new street, someone said "See them iron railings over there? That's where he skewered the kids." But again, that's all I got. Some rusty railings, a local legend.

Bogey man? Surely this crime couldn't really have happened? When things like this go on, everyone knows about it. It's all over the news, all over the country. The place becomes famous for that one macabre event (Dunblane, Hungerford, Soham...) But no, I asked around once again and was told this HAD happened, but still no one wanted to talk about it. Brushed under the carpet. Let's talk about nice, respectable things, and leave the past to the past.

Why? Why can't we talk about this killer, and those poor forgotten kids? I wanted answers. What did those kids do to deserve it? Why did the man want to do such a thing? Those railings over there - are they still the same railings that dripped blood, years earlier? Did people look out of their windows and see the children there, and scream?

Don't be so morbid. You're sick. How can you disrespect the dead like that?

For me, having this issue hushed up cast a grim light over the whole "city" of Worcester. It seemed to me that I was growing up in a place where stuff like that can happen, but respectable people ignore it, don't want to dirty their minds with it. Maybe it's too painful to face. When this happened, in 1973, I would have been 2 years old and my brother 4. I can see (being a dad myself now) how it would have filled my mum with anguish, especially now I know that the killer was not even the kids' father, but a lodger (ie: someone from outside the family unit). But even so.

This is what happens, quietly, in Worcester.

Small children.
Iron spikes.
A drunk man.

I'm aware that things would be different now. If this happened now, it would be all over the news. There would be true crime books about it, documentaries. Sick jokes circulating the internet, tour guides... Maybe a souvenir iron spike turning up on Ebay. We're open about these things now. We accept that they happen. We feel OK with that frisson of pleasure, when we think about what happened out there in the big bad world. We're facing up to it, embracing it... NOT sweeping it under that dirty, hideously out of date Axminster carpet. But is it really any better? We accept that these things happen, but should we?

Q. When three kids are brutally murdered, which is the better response?

a. Sweeping it under the carpet.
b. Dragging it out into the media glare.
c. Other?

Coming back to this morning, as I listened to the local news, it seems that this David McGreavy is coming up for parole, and people are wondering where he's going to be heading. I don't know what I think about that. In my heart I know that someone who can do that to kids should be snuffed out himself in the most painful of ways. He should die without pity or dignity, with spit on his face and salt in his wounds. But then I also know that the law, though much abused, must be upheld. A crime is committed, the perpetrator is caught, arrested, convicted, incarcerated. Everyone is happy. The citizens can put it all behind them and sleep safely in their beds, even if they'll never look at an iron railing the same way ever again. And then what?

Then the bogey man gets out.

Then the bogey man comes home.


Jenny D said...

Now THAT is a fantastically good post. Interesting territory...

Charlie Williams said...

You're too kind, Jenny. Way too kind. But it is interesting territory. I need to find out a lot more about it. But the more I find out, the more it dilutes those early bogey man memories.

Jenny D said...

Well, read a lot of stuff, then forget about it again, then write a novel about it in five years that captures the scariness of the early memories...

Deborah M said...

Anybody who is as disgusted as I am at the forthcoming release of David McGreavy should write to the British Home Office at the following addresses. You will receive a reply.
Deborah M

Anonymous said...

Nicely written article, evokes a lot of emotion.

sara said...

hi, i came across your site be cause, like you, i wanted some answers.
i was living in lansdowne road when the local paper printed the release fears about david mcgreavy. i had never heard of; him or the murders and it only happened a year before i was born. i grew up in stourport on severn a mere 10 miles away and knew nothing of the story. my parents couldn't remember anything about it and i found this astonishing considering how utterly shocking the crime. i mean we're talking tasteless horror movie death (and even most directors would baulk at gory child deaths). google came up with very little. like you say it was if it was just swept away. thanks for not forgetting it.

Anonymous said...

Hello Charlie. I was an 8 year old lad living in Gillam Street the night that this happened. Until then it was just a normal street with a little shop (Sherwood's, where I later got my first job as a paper boy)but after especially on dark winter nights it took om a sinister air. I think your title Bogey Man sums up the atmosphere to a tee. I have only just found this post whilst doing a bi t of research myself on Gillam Street but I think I will keep reading from now on.
REgards, Steve Hope.

Anonymous said...

I was 3 at the time of this atrocity, and lived only half a mile away. I now live in the next road as Gillam. I totally agree with your recollections of the time. It was never talked about, never mentioned etc. Now, after only 11 years per child there is talk of release. After investigating, we know that he was deemed sane at the time of the killings. He impaled them on rails post-mortum with no explaination why. Now he was undergoing work placement by the probation service only 20 yards away from a creche. My only main though over all of this is when is some sanity going to break out?

Charlie Williams said...

Many thanks for all of these comments. I would really like it if others left their thoughts too, whether on the atrocity itself and their memories of that time, or how society is meant to deal with a killer like that.

Maxwells said...

I see first time your site guys. I like you :)

Cal said...

Guys, im 21, wasnt around then, but have recently moved to Gillam Street. I heard of the murders from my friends Dad. He told the story instantly when he heard the name of the street. But i wanted to know more, the facts, the details into why where and how could this man not have got the death sentence? Is that not the only option for someone like that, who's basic judgement of right and wrong is so unbelievably warped that he would do such a thing and then boast and banter with other criminals about how "hard" he is? The man is a coward, and he attempts to make his actions look impressive! After leaving the house he cried. Not for the children, it was self pity. For anyone to deem this man sane, is insanity. I still struggle to find the information as a whole but am slowly trying to claw out the facts from different sources.
This man should not be feared, or hated. He should be pitied as a waste of tissue and matter. He will walk alone, he will not rest, and he will never be happy. Perhaps it is better to let him out and suffer the indignity of having to share his life with people who deserve to punish him. I hope that every day of his life is spent in misery, through the torture of his own mind and the people around him. I hope his nieghbours discover his past wherever he goes and evict him from any humanly habitable place.
Guys, im 21, i wasnt around then. But he shouldn't be around now. Thats the fact

DallasWyatt said...

Cal, the death sentence was abolished in England in 1969 (the last execution having taken place in 1964), so was not a sentencing option for David McGreavy, who committed the murders in 1973 and was convicted later that year.

Anonymous said...

Fine, I and thought.

John said...

They should let him out so a few people could do the same to him as he had done to those poor innocent babies

Anonymous said...

Hi im jake holmes i live in ambleside my uncle was engaged to sheila mcgreavy aka davids sister but died of cancer before i could Ask her what actually happened but aparently he was suffering from a drug problem and also refused to go to sheilas funeral in fear Of revenge strikes etc Aparently he doesnt remember the whole event and aparently he wasnt even in the house im not sure wat the truth is but still i hope my story helps for further details email me on jakeholmes16@gmail.com

Pamela Valemont said...

Hi Charlie,
Can you please supply me with the house number In Gillam Street where the murder was committed, and if possible the house number of the neighbour on whose railings these babies were spiked? I am also in need of the DOB of the offender. I have his full name of course, but need the day, month and year of birth to complete my book on him. This will give you some idea of the work I do. So far, his chart is similar to that of a serial killer, but I need the rest of the information to complete my profile. Thank you Pamela Valemont http://forensicnumerologyprofiling.wordpress.com/