Who is Charles Bronson and why has he been in prison for so long?

Bronson - now known as Charles Salvadore - is making his latest bid for freedom at a public parole hearing.

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)

A psychologist told a public parole hearing for Charles Bronson that the prisoner had previously "romanticised" the violence he had been involved in, which included mass brawls, hostage taking and rooftop protests.

“He found violence cathartic in the past,” the psychologist said on Wednesday, as the hearing resumed. “I think now what he does is he tends to weigh up the pros and cons of violence to himself, that is an effective strategy.”

The psychologist said Bronson has mild PTSD from his time in prison and she believed he should be moved to open conditions following his almost 50 years behind bars - much of which has been spent in solitary confinement.

“I believe that Mr Salvador poses less of a risk in a community environment than in a prison environment, and I stand by that assessment," she said.

“Of course, I’m talking about a highly supportive community environment and I’m talking about a gradual move into a community environment.”

She also said Bronson's expletive-laden language on the opening day of the trial was to be expected.

"We’re expecting too much if we expect Mr Salvador to sit in a situation like this and not become frustrated and not become loud, belligerent and swear," she said.

"In the past, he would not have been able to tolerate this at all without some sort of outburst... Mr Salvador is going to be rude to people on occasion. He is going to swear at people on occasion."

Bronson admitted he had previously been "a nasty b******" during the first day of his parole hearing on Monday, but said he was now able to manage his anger, explaining "I feel peaceful".

The 70-year-old, who is serving a discretionary life term and has spent almost 50 years behind bars, was granted a public parole board hearing that began on Monday, having been repeatedly refused a chance at freedom due to his perceived threat to the public.

Speaking on the first day of his hearing, Bronson told the parole board that he was now able to manage his emotions.

“When I’m in my cell and I’ve got a bad letter, or something’s happened, or someone has been nasty or whatever, I can sit in my cell now and switch off, and go into myself with deep breathing," he said.

“Sometimes people push, push, push, take the piss, it’s blatant piss-taking, and some people need a slap, it’s as simple as that.”

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.
Bronson (left), appearing via video link from HMP Woodhill during his public parole hearing at the Royal Courts Of Justice. (PA)

Bronson, who changed his surname to Salvador in 2014 after the artist Salvador Dali, claims to be a changed man and believes the art he has been creating in prison has helped rehabilitate him.

Explaining his 2014 name change, he said: "Bronson was a nasty bastard. I wasn’t a nice person and I didn’t like him. Salvador is a man of peace. I feel peaceful."

The long-term prisoner also spoke about his wish to see "my old duchess", his 95-year-old mother, get her "last dream on this planet".

“You people have got the power to let me out, that’s my mum’s last dream on this planet, to see her son outside, doing well, making an honest living with my art, as you know I’m anti-crime,” he said.

“If you’ve got any heart, any compassion, give it to my mum and make an old lady’s dream come true.”

However, Bronson's prison offender manager said during the opening of the parole hearing that she would have concerns about his release. "He would struggle in the community, he wouldn't have the skills to cope with such a vast change," she said.

Whether he's deemed ready to be released remains to be seen, as he has carried out countless violent attacks and taken multiple hostages in jail, causing him to spend plenty of time in solitary confinement.

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

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.
Bronson at a public 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 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."