Between 1974 and 1978, Robert John Maudsley killed four victims – including a convicted child molester and a convicted murderer – three of whom he attacked while in prison or a psychiatric hospital. Because Maudsley was able to fatally injure people despite being in high-security facilities, a special cell was constructed to protect other inmates from the man the press has called “Britain’s Most Dangerous Prisoner.”
Maudsley has also been referred to as the real “Hannibal the Cannibal” – the fictional doctor turned murderer from the movie Silence of the Lambs – not just because of his glass cell and high IQ, but also because he allegedly ate the brain of one of his victims. While Maudsley has murdered far fewer people than many of his counterparts, he is considered one of the worst British serial killers simply because of the sheer brutality of his crimes.
He Grew Up In An Orphanage
Shortly before he turned 2, authorities removed Maudsley, his two brothers, and his sister from their family home due to parental child abuse. Child services placed Maudsley and his siblings in a Catholic orphanage in Liverpool, and the children developed close relationships with one another and the nuns who ran the children’s home.
However, Maudsley’s parents returned to the orphanage many years later and brought the four children back to their home to live with the additional eight kids they’d had while Maudsley and his siblings were in the orphanage. Not long after Maudsley and his brothers moved back in with their parents, their father allegedly physically abused them. A year later, when Maudsley was approximately 10 years old, authorities placed him in foster care.
He Was Allegedly Abused As A Child
According to Maudsley, his father, George, repeatedly abused him and two of his brothers. Maudsley’s brother Paul said their father hit them, and sometimes incorporated objects like his belt or a stick. He maintained their mother, Jean, told their father about minor infractions, like not coming right home after school, to incite the beatings.
Paul also said when they weren’t being beaten, both parents ignored the boys, making for a home environment in which they felt unwanted and unloved. Authorities only removed Maudsley from the home to live with a foster family.
He Became A Sex Worker To Support His Drug Addiction
While in foster care, Maudsley’s father reportedly told his siblings that he had died. It wasn’t until years later Maudsley’s brother and sisters found out he was still alive. When he was just 16 years old, Maudsley left his foster family’s home and moved to London on his own.
Soon after arriving in England’s capital city, Maudsley became addicted to drugs, and the teenager got involved with sex work to pay for his expensive habit.
His First Victim Was An Alleged Child Molester
It was while working as a prostitute that Maudsley met his first murder victim, a laborer named John Farrell. After having sex with Farrell on March 14, 1974, Maudsley claims the laborer showed him photographs of children he had sexually abused. Angered, 20-year-old Maudsley – who claims he was sexually abused as a boy – strangled, stabbed, and beat Farrell.
Unfit to stand trial, the courts sentenced Maudsley to life in Broadmoor Hospital, a psychiatric facility.
He Was Sent To A High-Security Psychiatric Hospital For Killing His First Victim
Before killing his first victim, Maudsley had attempted suicide multiple times, and he’d even told a psychiatrist that he’d heard voices commanding him to murder his mother and father. Due to Maudsley’s personal history and the extenuating circumstances surrounding John Farrell’s killing, he was convicted of manslaughter – not murder – because of diminished responsibility.
In 1974, Maudsley received a life sentence for the killing, and he was sent to Broadmoor Hospital in Crowthorne, England, to serve his time. Broadmoor Hospital is a high-security psychiatric facility that has housed some of Britain’s most notorious criminals.
He Tortured And Murdered A Man While In The Psychiatric Hospital
In 1977, while serving his life sentence in Broadmoor Hospital, Maudsley and another patient, John Cheeseman, forced a third patient, convicted pedophile David Francis, into an office and tied him up with an electrical cord. Over the course of several hours, Maudsley and Cheeseman tortured Francis, claiming the child molester had sexually assaulted one of their friends.
After subjecting Francis to nine hours of beatings in the barricaded room, Maudsley strangled Francis. Following the murder, Maudsley and Cheeseman allowed hospital staff to enter. According to a guard who was present on the scene, the victim’s head had been “cracked open” and a spoon was sticking out from his skull.
Reportedly, a section of Francis’s brain was missing, leading many to speculate that Maudsley had cannibalized a portion of his victim’s body. However, several people familiar with the case have deemed this account false.
He Was Sent To A High-Security Prison For Killing His Second Victim
After killing David Francis while serving a life sentence in Broadmoor Hospital, Maudsley was tried and convicted of manslaughter. Instead of being remanded to the psychiatric hospital in which he’d tortured and garroted his second victim, the courts sentenced Maudsley to serve his time at Her Majesty’s Prison Wakefield, a high-security facility in West Yorkshire, England.
When Maudsley arrived at the prison, his fellow inmates were already aware of the crimes he had committed while in Broadmoor, causing other prisoners to give him the nickname “Spoons” because of the utensil he’d allegedly left jutting out of Francis’s brain.
He Killed Two More Men While In Wakefield Prison
On July 28, 1978, while serving his sentence in HMP Wakefield for killing Francis, Maudsley allegedly told his fellow inmates he wanted to murder seven people in a single day. After successfully getting Salney Darwood – a man who had been convicted of killing his wife – to enter his cell, Maudsley slit his throat and hid Darwood’s body underneath his bed.
According to his fellow prisoners, Maudsley tried to get other inmates to enter his cell, but they all refused. Consequently, Maudsley went into the cell of Bill Roberts. He accosted the 56-year-old with a shiv and beat Roberts’s head against a wall. After killing Roberts, Maudsley gave the makeshift knife to prison authorities, telling the guards he’d murdered two men.
A Special Glass Cell Was Built To House Him
After the courts convicted Maudsley of murdering fellow inmates Bill Roberts and Salney Darwood, he returned to Wakefield Prison to serve his sentences in solitary confinement. In 1983, prison officials decided it was too dangerous for them to house Maudsley in an ordinary cell, so they built a special unit for the convicted killer in the prison’s basement.
Maudsley’s cell consists of two rooms, and it’s made primarily out of bulletproof Plexiglas, causing many to compare the special accommodations to the cage designed to house Hannibal Lecter in the movie The Silence of the Lambs. Maudsley’s cell only contains a concrete bed, sparse furniture made from compressed cardboard, and bolted-down bathroom fixtures. The unit itself, compared to Alcatraz, also houses cells for notorious criminals Charles Bronson and Reginald Wilson.
The Press Dubbed Him ‘Hannibal The Cannibal’
The British press dubbed Maudsley “Hannibal the Cannibal” largely because a guard at Broadmoor Hospital alleged Maudsley ate a portion of his second victim’s brain. The nickname is associated with Thomas Harris’s 1981 fictional character, Hannibal Lecter – who Anthony Hopkins portrayed in the 1991 adaptation Silence of the Lambs – because Maudsley’s special cell is also made up mainly of Plexiglas. Like Lecter, Maudsley murdered people while behind bars, making him a uniquely dangerous criminal.
Additionally, Maudsley is incredibly intelligent – with a genius-level IQ – and he shares the fictitious doctor’s love of art, literature, and classical music. He is reportedly interested in taking college classes on art and music, and the people have remained in contact with Maudsley during his time in prison have described him as distinctly pleasant.
He’s Confined To His Cell 23 Hours A Day
Maudsley has spent more than half his life in prison, and much of the time he’s been incarcerated, he’s been kept in solitary confinement. The convicted killer isn’t allowed to interact with any of his fellow inmates in Wakefield Prison, and he is only let out of his cell for an hour a day in order to exercise.
Every time Maudsley – who has been dubbed “Britain’s Most Dangerous Prisoner” – leaves his cell to go to the exercise yard, a minimum of five corrections officers escort him and watch his every move. Maudsley has said his lack of meaningful human contact has been incredibly difficult for him, referring to life in solitary confinement as “one long period of unbroken depression.”
Maudsley Maintains How Solitary Confinement Is Counter To Rehabilitation
While Maudsley and many of his friends and family members have said he is no longer a danger to others, the number of murders he’s committed behind bars has many people concerned about the risk he could pose if he’s around other inmates. Instead, Maudsley believes prison officials want to keep him confined and isolated from others, seeking not to rehabilitate him, but simply to prevent him from killing anyone else.
According to Maudsley, the authorities aren’t concerned about trying to determine if he committed his crimes because of mental health issues or simply a depraved desire to murder people. Prison officials maintain the special solitary unit does not mean rehabilitation will discontinue. Maudsley, however, contends that all he has “to look forward to is further mental breakdown and possible suicide.”He’s Feuded With Another Of Britain’s Most Dangerous Prisoners
Another notorious inmate at Wakefield Prison is Charles Salvador – formerly Charles Bronson – a convicted hostage-taker the press has dubbed “Britain’s Most Violent Prisoner.” Salvador, who is also housed in solitary confinement, allegedly tried to befriend Maudsley by giving him a watch via a prison guard, but Maudsley rebuffed the gift, instructing the corrections officer to throw the timepiece in the trash.
As result of the rejection, Salvador has called Maudsley “an ungrateful bastard” and says the two men hate one another:
I pray to one day bump into him at 300mph and, unlike him, I don’t need a blade. Nobody rips my heart out or eats my brain – especially a f*cking nutcase like Bob Maudsley.
Unlike Maudsley, Salvador has never killed anyone: while in prison he has taken multiple people hostage, including a prison doctor, his own lawyer, a deputy governor, other prisoners, and a librarian. He’s also violently attacked several of his fellow inmates in prison and attacked other patients in psychiatric hospitals, attempting to end their lives via stabbing, strangulation, and poisoning.
Maudsley Said He Thought Of His Parents When He Killed People
According to Maudsley, the physical abuse and neglect he suffered as a child drove him to kill four men, and he thinks that if he’d murdered his mother and father in 1970 – years before he killed his first victim – he wouldn’t have taken any more lives. Maudsley has also said that when he’s killed people, he’s had his “parents in mind.”
Maudsley maintains if he had killed his parents, he would be “walking around as a free man without a care in the world.”
He’s Said He Wants To Kill Himself If He Can’t Have A Pet In Prison
Depressed and distraught because of decades in solitary confinement, Maudsley has made a number of requests for different remedies to the constant boredom and sadness he’s experienced in prison. In 2000, the convicted killer wrote letters to a British newspaper asking for a pet bird to keep him company in his cell, as well as a television and classical music.
Maudsley also told prison officials that if they were unable to provide him with the items he’d requested, he would like them to give him a cyanide capsule to end his life.
In 2010, Maudsley reportedly asked officials to let him play board games with prison officials, claiming it would help ease some of the gloominess and monotony of life in solitary confinement. However, because of the multiple murders Maudsley committed while behind bars or in a psychiatric hospital, authorities are reluctant to grant his requests.
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