High Court overturns anonymity order on Gillam Street child killer David McGreavy

David McGreavy was dubbed the 'Monster of Worcester' after the crimes

David McGreavy was dubbed the 'Monster of Worcester' after the crimes

First published in News
Last updated
Worcester News: Sarah Hickinbotham by

THE High Court has overturned an order gagging the press from naming Gillam Street killer David McGreavy, who murdered three children in Worcester in 1973.

The 62-year-old was jailed for life in 1973 for killing the children he was babysitting and impaling their bodies on railings.

McGreavy, one of the country's most notorious and longest-serving prisoners, was granted anonymity in response to fears that his own life was in danger.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling and media organisations argued it was legally flawed and wrongly prevented the public from knowing the full facts of the case.

Their counsel, Guy Vassall-Adams, said: "The full facts are exceptionally horrific by even the standard of murders.

"The order restricted the media to saying they were three sadistic murders - but that doesn't even give you the half of it."

Today, Lord Justice Pitchford, sitting in London with Mr Justice Simon, ruled the anonymity order must be discharged.

The judge said that the course adopted by McGreavy's legal advisers when applying for anonymity was "wrong".

Lord Justice Pitchford said: "This has been frankly accepted by them."

The ruling was a victory for the Justice Secretary and national newspaper publishers who joined him last month, after being alerted by the Press Association, to argue that the order was legally flawed and wrongly prevented the public from knowing the full facts of the case.

Mr Vassall-Adams had told the judges that even "the nature of the victims" could not be publicised.

The anonymity order was made during the course of a legal challenge by McGreavy, who has spent decades in prison, against a Parole Board decision refusing him a transfer to open conditions.

It was was granted by Mr Justice Simon, who dismissed McGreavy's parole challenge earlier this year.

It followed on from a previous no-names order that had masked McGreavy's identity since 2009.

He rejected submissions from the Press Association that allowing anonymity set a precedent for other high-profile prisoners to seek similar orders.

Because of the widespread implications, the issue returned to court in April for a full hearing before Lord Justice Pitchford.

Mr Vassall-Adams told the judges McGreavy's lawyers were arguing the case was about "whether the media should be allowed to imperil (McGreavy's) life or scupper his chances of rehabilitation".

He said those arguments really applied to a different type of case in which individuals - like Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, who killed James Bulger - were provided with a new identity and there were injunctions against the media aimed at protecting them from being attacked while living in the community.

Mr Vassall-Adams said: "The injunction protects confidential information, which is the new identities. It doesn't prevent the media reporting what is already public."

McGreavy had already been in prison 40 years serving multiple life sentences and there was no imminent prospect of him being released - "furthermore his identity has not only been public but received massive previous publicity".

Anyone interested in finding out about his crimes could do so by a click of a button on the internet, Mr Vassall-Adams said.

Not allowing the nature of his victims to be identified "masked" what the case was about, which was the Parole Board's refusal to recommend that he was fit for open conditions.

McGreavy, who was lodging with the tots' parents, was babysitting in April 1973 when he carried out the killings, earning him the title Monster of Worcester.

The High Court heard McGreavy had served 18 years in excess of his 20-year tariff - the minimum term he had to serve to meet the demands of retribution and deterrence. Post-tariff, it is for the Parole Board to deem whether it is safe to release him.

His counsel, Quincy Whitaker, told the court that naming him would put him in danger from other prison inmates and he had already been the victim of a serious assault.

He had previously spent two years in an open prison until "hostile media coverage" led to him being returned to closed conditions "for his own safety".

Ms Whitaker said the triple killings were "notorious", but no concerns had been subsequently raised about his behaviour.

There were "more than reasonable grounds" for believing that a fair parole hearing could mean him being returned to open conditions, which was a pre-requisite for release from custody.

McGreavy was first transferred to category D open conditions as long ago as 1994, but the transfer to Leyhill Prison in south Gloucestershire broke down after other inmates learned of his offence.

He was subsequently returned to Category C closed prison conditions, though he retained Category D status.

Since then he has launched a series of bids to win parole. In February
2009 he unsuccessfully challenged the Home Secretary's decision that he must remain in Category C conditions while undertaking further assessments and work.

The 2009 bid was rejected by Mr Justice Silber - but it was during that case that the judge made the anonymity order that has shielded his identity until today.

McGreavy is currently living in closed conditions in a vulnerable prisoners' unit.

Lord Justice Pitchford described in his ruling how McGreavy was the victim of a serious assault in 1975, and then again in 1996, while serving his sentence within the general prison population.

An attempt was made by several prisoners to attack him in May 1995 while he was in an open prison but the attempt was thwarted.

In January 1991 his cell was fouled when he had been back in closed conditions for only four days.

He was threatened with violence in 1978 and 1994.

The judge said: "Threats of violence or a risk of violence appeared to have been precipitated by press reports in 1994, 1996 and 2005.

"On only one of those occasions was an assault committed."

The judge held out the possibility that in future McGreavy could be allowed a change of name to protect him.

The judge said McGreavy's ninth parole review was under way, with August
1 the target date for a hearing, though it was "doubtful" that date would be met.

If it was, and there was a recommendation that he be returned to open conditions, it was improbable that could occur before October, said the judge.

If he did go back to open conditions the board review would have to consider steps that could be taken to protect him - "they might include a change of name".

Dorothy Fields-Urry, who is the former sister-in-law of Dorothy Urry, the mother of McGreavy's victims, said today that the killer should stay in jail.

She said: "He is the scum of the earth for what he did and he should never be let out.

"It was unbelievable what he did to those children - I think it was the worst thing I have ever heard."

Mrs Fields-Urry, from near Andover, Hampshire, added: "I don't think he has shown any remorse for what he has done and he should stay in prison until he dies."

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said: "I welcome the court's decision. This is a clear victory for open justice.

"The public has every right to know when serious offenders are taking legal action on matters which relate to their imprisonment."

Comments (8)

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10:42am Wed 22 May 13

worcswolf says...

This man committed a horrendous crime and his identity needs to be known.I hope he never sees the light of day a victory for common sense.
This man committed a horrendous crime and his identity needs to be known.I hope he never sees the light of day a victory for common sense. worcswolf
  • Score: 0

10:49am Wed 22 May 13

brooksider says...

It beggars belief that he was considered for parole never mind being allowed day release.
If there was one case where life means life, this is it.
It beggars belief that he was considered for parole never mind being allowed day release. If there was one case where life means life, this is it. brooksider
  • Score: 0

10:50am Wed 22 May 13

nicki1967 says...

worcswolf wrote:
This man committed a horrendous crime and his identity needs to be known.I hope he never sees the light of day a victory for common sense.
I couldn't agree more. In fact, I think it is a farce that any child-killer is allowed anonymity on release from prison, especially at the expense of the taxpayer.
[quote][p][bold]worcswolf[/bold] wrote: This man committed a horrendous crime and his identity needs to be known.I hope he never sees the light of day a victory for common sense.[/p][/quote]I couldn't agree more. In fact, I think it is a farce that any child-killer is allowed anonymity on release from prison, especially at the expense of the taxpayer. nicki1967
  • Score: 0

11:03am Wed 22 May 13

grannieannie says...

My late Father (Sam Palmer) was station sgt at the time David Mcgreavy was arrested and put in the cells at Worcester Police Station, Deansway.
He said the station was surrounded by mothers, some with babies in prams, he's convinced they would have torn him to shreds given the chance. At that point in his career he had nearly served 25 years and said it was the worst case he'd ever been involved with. This monster should rot in prison, I don't understand how a life sentence no longer means life,especially for such a hienous crime, it shocked Worcester and the nation.
My late Father (Sam Palmer) was station sgt at the time David Mcgreavy was arrested and put in the cells at Worcester Police Station, Deansway. He said the station was surrounded by mothers, some with babies in prams, he's convinced they would have torn him to shreds given the chance. At that point in his career he had nearly served 25 years and said it was the worst case he'd ever been involved with. This monster should rot in prison, I don't understand how a life sentence no longer means life,especially for such a hienous crime, it shocked Worcester and the nation. grannieannie
  • Score: 0

11:19am Wed 22 May 13

emma1223 says...

he shouldn't be let out there's going to be so many people worrying about their kids, yeah he might not do it again. but people shouldn't worry about it now they have to. he should ROT in there.. makes me angry
he shouldn't be let out there's going to be so many people worrying about their kids, yeah he might not do it again. but people shouldn't worry about it now they have to. he should ROT in there.. makes me angry emma1223
  • Score: 0

7:26pm Wed 22 May 13

jb says...

I used to live very close to where this happened with my parents, I was only 13 and remember the horror everyone felt when the news broke. This prisoner should never be allowed out of a closed prison, he should never be allowed to live any where near the general public. For someone to commit such a crime surely shows that he's going to be a constant danger to anyone not just children. As for him getting assaulted and badly treated by other inmates, TOUGH. Self pity seems to be the only emotion he's capable of.
I used to live very close to where this happened with my parents, I was only 13 and remember the horror everyone felt when the news broke. This prisoner should never be allowed out of a closed prison, he should never be allowed to live any where near the general public. For someone to commit such a crime surely shows that he's going to be a constant danger to anyone not just children. As for him getting assaulted and badly treated by other inmates, TOUGH. Self pity seems to be the only emotion he's capable of. jb
  • Score: 0

9:51pm Wed 22 May 13

Horatio One says...

I was at Warndon School when this happened at the same time as the Fred West abduction of the Girl from Bilford Road that we were interviewed for. It was about 10 years later I saw the results of Mc Greavys' actions in the Museum at Hindlip. It sickened me then . The feelings now are the same .
The images of three children thrown onto spiked railings remains with me.
I was at Warndon School when this happened at the same time as the Fred West abduction of the Girl from Bilford Road that we were interviewed for. It was about 10 years later I saw the results of Mc Greavys' actions in the Museum at Hindlip. It sickened me then . The feelings now are the same . The images of three children thrown onto spiked railings remains with me. Horatio One
  • Score: 0

11:34am Thu 23 May 13

green49 says...

Bring back the death penalty for these sort of crimes, including what happened in London yesterday.
Bring back the death penalty for these sort of crimes, including what happened in London yesterday. green49
  • Score: 0

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