The life and crimes of Britain's most notorious prisoner Charles Bronson

Charles Bronson was born Michael Gordon Peterson in Luton, Bedfordshire, on December 1952.

By Tony Gardner
Tuesday, 14th April 2020, 11:45 am

He was one of three sons of Eira and Joe Peterson.

His aunt and uncle were mayor and mayoress of the town.

His aunt once described Bronson as: "Gentle and mild-mannered, never a bully; he would defend the weak."

Charles Bronson has 45 years inside Britain's prisons and asylums.

When he was a teenager his family moved to Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, where he first started getting into trouble.

Aged 13 he was part of a gang of robbers and ended up in court for stealing.

His first job was at Tesco where he was sacked for attacking his manager.

Bronson's first taste of custody came when he was remanded for criminal damage for smashing up parked cars.

Bronson was acquitted of attempting to attack the governor at HMP Wakefield after a Leeds Crown Court trial

Bronson got into serious trouble for the first time after crashing a stolen lorry into a car.

By 19 he was convicted for his role in a robbery.

Peterson met his first wife, Irene Kelsey, in 1971.

Their son Michael Jonathan Peterson was born the following year.

The couple divorced five years later,

Bronson was convicted of armed robbery in 1974 and jailed for seven years.

He was sent to Walton Jail, Liverpool, but was transferred to Hull after he attacked two inmates.

Bronson was transferred to Armley Jail in Leeds after attacking a prisoner at Hull with a glass jug.

His reputation as a dangerous prisoner increased and he was regularly switched between prisons.

Bronson continued to attack other convicts, damage property and spend periods in solitary confinement.

At HMP Wandsworth he attempted to poison the prisoner in the cell next to him.

He was moved to Parkhurst, a psychiatric facility on the Isle of Wight, in 1976.

There, he befriended the Kray twins, describing the London gangsters as "the best two guys I've ever met".

Bronson spent four months in isolation after he was caught trying to dig his way out of his cell.

He was detained under The Mental Health Act after attempting suicide and attacking another prison officer.

Periods were then spent in Broadmoor and Rampton high security hospitals

In 1982 he carried out his first rooftop protest at Broadmoor.

During a second rooftop protest, lasting three-days, £250,000 worth of damage was caused before he was talked down.

In 1984 he started an 18-day-long hunger strike before being transferred to Ashworth hospital.

There he used a sauce bottle to stab a patient who made advances towards him.

Bronson was returned to the general prison population in 1985, but was put into isolation after punching an inmate.

Later that year he was returned to Liverpool, where he staged another three-day rooftop protest, causing £100,000 worth of damage.

In 1987 he strangled the governor of Wormwood Scrubs.

That year he was released from prison where he began a short-lived career in bare-knuckle boxing in the East End of London.

He changed his name to Charles Bronson on the advice of his fight promoter - having never seen a film starring the American actor.

On New Year's Day 1988 he robbed a jewellery shop and stole a ring for his girlfriend. He pleaded guilty to armed robbery and was sentenced to seven years.

At Long Lartin Jail in 1989 he ran riot in the nude, clutching onto a spear he fashioned out of a broken bottle and a broom handle.

Bronson was released from prison in November 1992 but was arrested over a robbery conspiracy 53 days later. He was subsequently given an eight-year sentence.

While on remand he took a librarian hostage and demanded an inflatable doll, a helicopter, and a cup of tea from police negotiators.

He was transferred to HMP Wakefield's "cage" in 1994, where prison officers encouraged Bronson to take up art.

In 1996 he took a prison doctor hostage at Birmingham.

Later that year he took three inmates hostage in his cell. He demanded a plane to take him to Libya, two sub-machine guns, 5,000 rounds of ammunition, and an axe.

In 1999, he took a civilian education worker hostage for criticising one of his drawings.

Bronson got married again in 2001 to Fatema Saira Rehman in Woodhill Prison.

She had seen a story about him in a newspaper and began writing to him. They divorced four years later.

In 2002, he published Solitary Fitness, a guidebook on physical training in confined space.

The film Bronson was released in 2008. The biopic, starring Tom Hardy, is based on his life.

He was refused parole after a hearing in 2009.

In August 2013 a petition with 10,000 signatures was presented to 10 Downing Street for his release.

Bronson announced in 2014 that he was changing his name to Charles Salvador, stating: "The old me dried up... Bronson came alive in 1987. He died in 2014."

In November 2018 he was found not guilty of attempting to inflict grievous bodily harm on the governor of HMP Wakefield after a trial at Leeds Crown Court.