Charles Bronson loses latest appeal to leave prison

Bronson - now known as Charles Salvadore - has lost his latest appeal after spending nearly 50 years behind bars.

Notorious prisoner Charles Bronson 'suing Richard Madeley for defamation' after Good Morning Britain mishap
Charles Bronson has spent most of his life in prison due to repeat attacks and hostage-takings. (PA)

Charles Bronson has lost his latest bid to be freed from jail after being denied release by the Parole Board.

The decision comes after one of the UK’s most notorious prisoners – who changed his surname to Salvador in 2014 – took part in one of the country’s first public parole hearings earlier this month.

The Parole Board issued a statement on Thursday saying the panel was "not satisfied that Mr Salvador was suitable for release".

Once dubbed one of Britain’s most violent offenders, Bronson has spent most of the past 48 years behind bars, apart from two brief periods of freedom during which he reoffended, for a string of thefts, firearms and violent offences, including 11 hostage-taking incidents in nine different sieges.

Victims included governors, doctors, staff and, on one occasion, his own solicitor.

Bronson was handed a discretionary life sentence with a minimum term of four years in 2000 for taking a prison teacher at HMP Hull hostage for 44 hours.

Since then, the Parole Board has repeatedly refused to direct his release, making him one of the UK's longest-serving prisoners.

Here, Yahoo News takes a look at the life of Charles Bronson, and why he's been in prison for so long.

Court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook of notorious inmate Charles Bronson (left), appearing via video link from HMP Woodhill, during his public parole hearing at the Royal Courts Of Justice, London.
Charles Bronson, left, appearing via video link from HMP Woodhill during his public parole hearing at the Royal Courts Of Justice. (Elizabeth Cook/PA)

Who is Charles Bronson?

Bronson was born Michael Gordon Peterson in Luton on 6 December, 1952.

One of two brothers, he was from a respectable family and was said to be a well-adjusted boy who enjoyed school and got on well with classmates.

"As a boy, he was a lovely lad. He was obviously bright and always good with children," his aunt Eileen Parry told the BBC in 2000. She added: "He was gentle and mild-mannered, never a bully – he would defend the weak."

Watch: Britain's most notorious prisoner says he can 'taste freedom'

Charles Bronson's new wife Paula Williamson is all smiles as she's pictured after their wedding
Bronson had a fearsome reputation on the inside, and had a brief stint as a bareknuckle boxer out of prison. (PA)

Bronson started getting in trouble as a teenager when his family moved to Cheshire, and was already part of a gang of thieves by 13, which saw him reprimanded in a juvenile court after he was caught stealing.

He would often play truant, and when he was in school, he was repeatedly expelled due to fighting. He was also arrested for a number of petty crimes during his teens, he recalled in his 2000 memoir Bronson.

Read more: Moment Charles Bronson dances naked outside cell as he taunts prison officers

At 19, he was arrested over a smash-and-grab robbery. Bronson said the judge who passed a suspended sentence gave him the "biggest chance of my life" – but just a few years later, he would be behind bars.

Why is Charles Bronson in prison?

Bronson was jailed for seven years in 1974 aged 22 for the armed robbery of a post office in Little Sutton, during which he stole £26.18.

He quickly earned a reputation for violent outbursts and would be moved between prisons numerous times due to his attacks on staff and inmates.

These include scarring one inmate using a glass jug, attempting to poison a prisoner in the cell next to him and smashing up a prison workshop.

Over the years, he has caused so much disruption that he has reportedly been moved prison more than 120 times, and is estimated to have caused millions of pounds of damage during nine rooftop protests.

Charles Bronson with his dog Della during some time out from prison in 1992. The muscle-bound prisoner took a teacher hostage at Hull Prison for 44 hours and threatened to kill him Luton Crown court heard.    *  The shaven-headed defendant barricaded himself in the A wing of the Prison and towed Phil Danielson around with a skipping rope around his neck while he carried a makeshift spear. Bronson, 47, denies false imprisonment, making threats to kill, assault and damaging property between January 31 and February 4 last year. 01/06/01: Bronson was marrying a woman he has met just three times. The ceremony between Bronson and Saira Rehman was taking place inside the country's highest-security prison unit at Woodhill Prison, near Milton Keynes. Charles Bronson, an armed robber who adopted the name of his screen idol, has been a serial hostage-taker during his 27 years in jail and held a knife to the throat of prison teacher Philip Danielson during a three-day stand-off in 1999. 16/02/00: The notorious category A prisoner who has spent the last quarter of a century in jail t told a court of his  life in hell . Bronson, 47, who was originally jailed for seven years for armed robbery in 1974, said he felt  dehumanised  by a prison system which forced him to live in a  toilet-sized windowless cell 23 hours a day. Strongman Bronson, who was guarded by five prison officers while giving evidence at Luton Crown Court, said that if he were a dog the RSPCA would be fighting his case.  *02/04/04: Bronson, labelled Britain's most violent prisoner, lost his appeal against conviction for holding a teacher hostage during a jail siege. Despite the blow, he was given a ray of hope by the words of the presiding judge, Lord Justice Rose who said in the light of Bronson's increasing age and maturity and his marriage, he may now be a
Bronson pictured with his dog Della during a brief period out of prison in 1992. (PA)

Broadmoor Hospital

In 1978, Bronson was taken to Broadmoor, the high-security psychiatric hospital in Berkshire, after an attack on a prison officer and a suicide attempt.

Despite trying to pacify him with medication, Bronson's violent outbursts continued, including an incident when he tried to strangle to death inmate Gordon Robinson and another three-day rooftop protest in which he caused £25,000 worth of damage.

He later staged an 18-day hunger strike and was transferred to Ashworth Hospital (then Park Lane Hospital) near Liverpool in 1984, where he stabbed a patient with a sauce bottle for making sexual advances towards him.

Bronson was returned to the general prison population in 1985 at Risley Remand Centre in Warrington but continued with a pattern of violence, rooftop protests and prison transfers, until he was released in 1987.

Bareknuckle boxing and return to prison

During his short-lived time on the outside, Bronson had a brief stint as an illegal bare-knuckle boxer in east London.

It was as this time that he changed his name from Michael Peterson to Charles Bronson, after the legendary Hollywood tough guy actor, on the advice of his fight promoter, Paul Edmonds.

He claims to have killed a Rottweiler with his bare hands during a £10,000 fight, writing that it was "not something I'm proud of, because I love animals".

In January 1988, Bronson found himself back in custody after just 69 days of freedom after robbing a jewellery shop, and continued his reign of terror inside prison wings.

He was released again in November 1992 but was only free for 53 days before being arrested for conspiracy to rob.

File court artist sketch dated 13/11/18 by Elizabeth Cook of notorious inmate Charles Bronson (centre), who will make his latest bid for freedom at a public parole hearing this week.
Charlers Bronson at a parole hearing in 2018. (PA)

In 1996, Bronson took hostage two Iraqi hijackers and another inmate at Belmarsh prison in London. He instructed them to call him 'General' and to tickle his feet.

He demanded a getaway helicopter to Cuba, two sub-machine guns, 5,000 rounds of ammunition and an axe – and warned negotiators he would eat one of his victims should his demands not be met. The episode ended when he slashed himself with a razor.

Bronson held hostage prison art teacher Phil Danielson in 1999 during a 44-hour siege in Hull Prison. He left Danielson so traumatised he has been unable to work since.

Bronson was given a discretionary life term with a minimum of four years for the attack.

Read more: Drink-driver killed mother in one of 'worst hit-and-run cases ever seen'

Appearing on Channel 4 documentary Bronson: Fit to Be Free?, Danielson said: "Bronson burst into the room, grabbed me by the throat and punched me in the face.

"He stabbed me in the leg and told me, 'Take your last breath. You're going to die.' The damage caused by him has moulded my whole life. It'll be with me for the rest of my life.”"

Bronson's love life

Bronson met his first wife Irene in 1971. They had a son, Michael Jonathan, a year later, and divorced in 1976.

He found love again in 2001 with Fatema Saira Rehman, who saw a picture of the prisoner in a newspaper and began a correspondence.

Following their 2001 wedding, he briefly converted to Islam and changed his name for a second time to Charles Ali Ahmed. After four years of marriage the couple divorced and he renounced the religion and his new name.

Paula Williamson, the wife of prisoner Charles Bronson, stands in Downing Street, London, with a Charles Bronson look-alike, after delivering a petition to number 10, in support of her husband being released from prison. (Photo by Victoria Jones/PA Images via Getty Images)
Paula Williamson, Bronson's former wife, stands in Downing Street, London, with a lookalike after delivering a petition to Number 10 calling for his release. (PA/Getty)

Soap actress Paula Williamson met Bronson in prison in late 2016 and the couple married in November 2017, but their marriage was annulled in 2019.

Bronson the artist

During his time in prison, Bronson has cultivated a keen interest in painting.

His surrealist drawings have won 11 awards from the Koestler Trust, a prison arts charity, and one was even displayed at Angel tube station in London.

In February, he launched an exhibition of his works – many depicting a nightmarish view of his life in prison and in isolation units.

Some of his works were put up for sale, with prices ranging from £700 to £30,000 for a multiple set of images.

Ronnie Barbour, of the Luton-based Three Counties Radio, with the painting donated by one of the country's most notorious prisoners, Charles Bronson, to be auctioned in aid of a children's charity on his behalf.  Bronson, who produced the painting while in solitary confinement at Woodhill prison in Milton Keynes, is serving a sentence for robbery, kidnapping and blackmail. See PA story PRISON Painting.
Ronnie Barbour, of the Luton-based Three Counties Radio, with a painting donated by Charles Bronson. (PA)

Artist and curator Oliver Hammond said: "If we can show that Charlie does genuinely want to be released from prison to work on his art, there's definitely a good chance this can help with his parole.

"You know, why would someone, after creating the works that he's created behind the cell door, not want to continue that on a larger scale outside?

"It's a little bit grim, but it's grim to be in solitary confinement for 27 years and in prison for a total of 47 years. This is a man's mind depicting his grim life."

Why did he lose his appeal?

In March 2023, three parole judges considered his case during a hearing at HMP Woodhill in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, while members of the press and public watched part of the proceedings on a live stream from the Royal Courts of Justice in central London.

He likened his experience in front of the Parole Board to being on BBC programme The Apprentice.

A psychologist told the panel Bronson has post-traumatic stress disorder after facing some “brutal and unacceptable” treatment behind bars. He has been held in solitary confinement for much of his time in jail.

During the hearing he was described as holding “anti-authoritarian views” and being “suspicious” of the motives of others, as well as having a “romanticised” view of violent incidents in the past.

None of the prison and probation officials who gave evidence at the parole hearing said he was ready to be released.

In a document detailing the decision published on 30 March, the Parole Board said: “After considering the circumstances of his offending, the progress that Mr Salvador has made while in custody and the evidence presented at the hearings, the panel was not satisfied that Mr Salvador was suitable for release.

“Nor did the panel recommend to the secretary of state that he should be transferred to an open prison.”