The holidays are a time of gift giving, joy and spending time with the ones you love. Family isn’t defined by blood, so we take the time to be with those who mean the most to us. But sometimes, the season shines a darker light. This is the story of Melissa Young and one fateful Christmas in 2013.
Edinburgh is the capitol city of Scotland and home to over half a million people. Known for beautiful architecture, a thriving arts scene and an enchanting atmosphere, it’s hard to imagine a horrific holiday like we’re going to talk about now.
In 1977, Richard McCabe was born in Perth, Scotland. As he grew, it was apparent he was born with the wrong gender. Wearing female clothing in the 80s and 90s led to a lot of verbal and physical bullying, shaping a personality of paranoia and defensiveness. In 2002, she surgically transitioned to legally become Melissa Young. Standing 6’3” tall, her husky voice was considered both endearing and intriguing.
This past of disrespect and pain continued to affect her. She did not have long term relationships, instead using many one-night stands as her means of romantic endeavor. Having started heavily drinking as a teenager, her habits escalated to recreational drug use and alcoholism.
In 2003, Melissa was introduced to the owner of Cher’s Private Club Sauna in Edinburgh. Hitting it off, he offered her a job. Over the next nine months, she worked at the establishment, but the time was filled with a lot of conflict. She fought with her co-workers often, either blaming them for perceived slights or stealing possessions. She was prone to violent outbursts and drank heavily, even while working.
One incident, her boss found a hidden bottle of liquor and when he stated he was going to pour it down the drain, she threatened to kill him if he did.
Another time, she was jealous of plastic surgery her boss had gotten, demanding he pay for her to get breast implants. He refused and told her to “save money instead of drinking it.” This put the two on rocky terms, but she continued her employment at the sauna.
He even recalled an incident one time that she was playing with a carving knife and stated, “I could kill them all.” He didn’t know what she was really talking about and just brushed off the comment, but in retrospect, he wonders what she meant.
She ultimately lost her job when the owner discovered that she was stealing clients of the sauna to take them home for sex work on the side. After she was terminated, she continued private sex work and became shoplifting to fund her growing drug habits. She was caught not long after leaving the sauna and served 18 months for a shoplifting charge.
She didn’t appear to learn any lessons, though, as she resumed shoplifting and sex work upon release. She oddly didn’t sell all of the stolen goods, keeping thousands of dollars of merchandise for herself.
A good Christian?
Melissa had an odd fascination with the Catholic Church. Beyond attending services, she would write letters to the Pope and a particular Cardinal in Edinburgh. The particular congregation she attended was very accepting of her until they discovered she had been soliciting the bus drivers on her way to and from church. She would slip them notes advertising her sex work for £50 a session. At this point in 2011, they asked her to leave the congregation.
A new home
When she first moved into Flat 6 at 3 Glenure Loan in Edinburgh, she quickly became friends with Alan Williamson. The 47 year-old had his own troubles with the law previously when he was arrested and convicted for the attempted rape of a woman in Uphall, West Lothian. He served 6 years in prison before his release.
In early 2013, Melissa suspected Alan had stolen her house keys. She confronted him about it, cornering him at knife point. In fear, he jumped from the balcony and landed in the back garden one story below to escape.
I did not see whether they mended their friendship or not after this, but the next encounter between the two would be Christmas of the same year.
She had slowly increased her alcohol and drug usage throughout the years. Starting with cannabis use, she soon evolved to include inhalants and harder drugs like heroin. She did remain in contact with the owner of the sauna who stated in their last chat in November of 2013, she was abusing alcohol, cannabis and solvent inhalation daily at that point.
On Christmas Day of 2013, Alan visited Melissa. Public accounts don’t mention if she invited him or he visited of his own accord, but she did have Christmas presents for him. She gifted her neighbor a pair of unisex running sneakers and the 2014 calendar from The Sun Newspaper. This calendar is of a similar style to the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, showing beautiful women in swimwear.
Alan refused the gifts for unknown reasons. The first 999 call Melissa placed, she claimed he refused to leave the apartment, but he can be heard in the background calling, “let me out!”
After this call, she proceeded to grab a 6” kitchen knife and started attacking Alan. Her second call to 999 was her reporting that she had stabbed someone seven times. She said “I’m psychiatric can you take me the Royal Edinburgh Hospital, please.” She later asked police to take her to Carstairs Hospital. Both are psychiatric institutions.
Police did not know what awaited them. They found Melissa with her hands covered in blood as she told them “The power it gave me was amazing.” She also said that the Archangel Saint Michael had possessed her body as an instrument of God to punish the “unclean demon.” She also said that had he accepted her gifts, she never would have stabbed him.
Melissa Young’s Trial
At trial, she claimed diminished capacity due to “abnormality of mind.” The details of the crime and her toxicology report led to questioning of if she truly had diminished capacity to stand trial or not.
From Alan’s autopsy, his cause of death was stab wounds to several key areas. In total, he had been stabbed 29 times. 12 of the wounds were to his arms, 12 to his chest, and 5 to his legs. There was pronounced injury to his left lung, heart, diaphragm, stomach, pancreas and spleen in addition to transection of the femoral artery.
Melissa’s toxicology report at the time of her arrest was extensive. They found 14 different prescription drugs, 4 recreational drugs including marijuana and heroin, a blood alcohol level far above legal limits and she had also inhaled solvents that day.
Six consultant psychiatrists agreed that yes, she suffers a severe multiple Cluster B personality disorders. These personality disorders are commonly described as dramatic, excitable, erratic, or volatile. She was diagnosed with:
- Narcissistic personality: grandiosity, need for admiration and lack of empathy, typically characterized by hardships maintaining work and relationships.
- Histrionic personality: exaggerated emotionality and attention-seeking behaviors, typically characterized as flirtatious, seductive, charming, manipulative, impulsive, and lively.
- Antisocial personality: dysfunctional thought process with lack of remorse for social exploitive, delinquent and criminal behaviors, typically characterized by failure to conform to the law, inability to sustain constant employment, deception, manipulation and the inability to form lasting relationships.
- Borderline personality: inability to control emotions, typically characterized by intense mood swings and reckless behavior.
These personality disorders can explain a lot in Melissa’s stories such as the shoplifting, drug use and volatile behavior. They stated that the general impression was that of someone who was manipulative and prone to using psychiatric symptoms as “Get out of jail free card.”
While this diagnosis was a factor, Judge Lord Boyd stated during sentencing, “Having murdered him you set about trying to persuade health professionals that you were suffering from diminished responsibility. While it’s true that you have a severe personality disorder it’s clear it played no part in what happened that night.” He also added “You showed no remorse, in fact you told this court that you were ‘indifferent’ to his death.”
Due to the “cruel and wicked attack”, Melissa Young was sentenced to 20 years to life for murder in early 2014.
The story’s not over
On June 3, 2014, the prison shop at Cornton Vale Prison (Scotland’s only all-female jail) was open. After a disagreement over cigarettes, Melissa was asked to return to her cell. She proceeded to approach other inmate’s cells and was once again asked to return to her own.
At this point, she lunged at Officer Henson, one of the guards on duty. She grabbed Henson’s ear and hair, pulling her to the ground. During the struggle, she was kicking and attacking the guard and eventually bit her in the stomach. Officer Henson was taken to the hospital and treated for bleeding and bruising at the wound.
Melissa Young was then charged with assault with an additional 6 months of mandatory time added to her sentence.
Happy holidays, all!
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK542325/#:~:text=A histrionic personality disorder%2C or,Cluster B” of personality disorders