The Young Poisoner's Handbook

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The Young Poisoner's Handbook
The Young Poisoner's Handbook FilmPoster.jpeg
Directed byBenjamin Ross
Produced bySam Taylor
Written by
CinematographyHubert Taczanowski
Edited byAnne Sopel
Distributed byC/FP Distribution
Release date
  • 1995 (1995)
Running time
93 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Box office$330,466[1]

The Young Poisoner's Handbook is a 1995 British-German-French-produced black comedy film based on the life of Graham Young, more commonly known as "The Teacup Murderer". It was directed by Benjamin Ross and written by Ross and Jeff Rawle. The film stars Hugh O'Conor in the lead role.[2]


Graham Young has been obsessed with death and the macabre since childhood. He is highly intelligent, with an aptitude for chemistry. He also dreams of poisoning as many people as he can. In his teen years, he poisons a schoolmate—making him ill rather than killing him—in order to date a girl his schoolmate was seeing. His conversation with his date involves vivid, graphic descriptions of deadly car accidents. He also reads a comic book account of an event in which the Dutch Resistance killed a whole German army camp in the occupied Netherlands during the Second World War by poisoning their water supply with thallium.

Graham is arrested at the age of 14 outside his home in Neasden after poisoning his father and stepmother with thallium, killing his stepmother and leaving his father seriously ill. During the struggle with police, he drops his "Exit Dose" of thallium, which he intended to use to commit suicide should he be caught. He is hospitalised for nine years in an institution for the criminally insane, during which time a psychiatrist works with him in the hopes of rehabilitating him.

Graham's dishonesty becomes evident to the doctor, who can see that Graham is trying to deceive him. Graham apparently has no dreams to share with the psychiatrist so he "borrows" a fellow prisoner's dreams. This source is shut off to him, however, once the fellow prisoner commits suicide. Despite the initial evidence of Graham's deceitfulness, the doctor eventually gets him released.

Graham then goes to work in a camera factory and is shown the secret ingredient used in the company's shutter system—thallium. It is not long before Graham starts poisoning people again. He kills two of his workmates by poisoning their tea with thallium stolen from the laboratory, and makes many others ill. For months, the source of the "bug" afflicting the workers at the factory remains a mystery until one unforeseen event leads to Graham's being found out. As a hygiene measure, all the personalised teacups are replaced with uniform ones, leaving Graham unable to poison people selectively. His efforts to memorise which cup is going to which person give him away and his workmates finally realise what is going on.

Graham is arrested soon afterwards and he is later sentenced to a lengthy custodial term, this time in an ordinary prison. He commits suicide by poisoning himself with the "Newton's Diamond" he made in the psychiatric hospital.

Differences between the film and the real case[edit]

The Young Poisoner's Handbook is not a strictly factual account of Graham Young's crimes. The film depicts Young committing suicide immediately after his arrest; the real Graham Young died of a heart attack in 1990, at the age of 42. The film insinuates that his ambition in life was to create an untraceable poison based on thallium using his knowledge of chemistry; in reality his ambition was to become an infamous poisoner, an ambition he achieved.

In real life also, his crimes were not discovered because of what happened with the cups; rather, he gave himself away during a talk given by a local doctor brought in to try and reassure the staff, who understandably were panicking and on the point of leaving.

After the doctor said the most likely cause of the outbreak of illness the factory had been experiencing was a local virus called the Bovingdon Bug, he asked for questions and Young asked him why they hadn't considered heavy metal poisoning instead; he went into detail about the effects of some of these, including hair loss. This concerned both the doctor and the managing director of the factory where Young worked, prompting them to ask the local police to check Young's background—which revealed his having spent nine years at Broadmoor for poisoning his father, his sister and a school friend (though all survived). He was arrested soon afterwards.


Reference list[edit]

  1. ^ "The Young Poisoner's Handbook". The Numbers. Retrieved 2014-04-02.
  2. ^ "Young Poisoner's Handbook | BFI | BFI". Retrieved 2014-04-02.

External links[edit]