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8 unbelievable facts about Charles Bronson

Charles Bronson
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I've had more porridge than Goldilocks and the three bears

Charles Bronson

He’s Britain’s most violent prisoner, who could be released from prison after decades behind bars.

His reputation is well-known and well-deserved after a long list of crimes, but that’s only the beginning of the unbelievable facts about Charles Bronson and his life.

1. He’s had three name changes

The UK’s most notorious criminal didn’t coincidentally share his name with a Hollywood movie star. He was born Michael Gordon Peterson but changed it on the suggestion of a bare-knuckle fight promoter.

Bronson is now outdated, anyway. He briefly changed it to Charles Ali Ahmed in 2001, after he got married and converted to Islam. Four years later, he got divorced and renounced his faith.

Then in 2014, he changed it yet again, to Charles Salvador, in honour of the Spanish artist, Salvador Dali. In a handwritten letter posted to his website, he claimed ‘the old me dried up’.

2. His prison sentence

At 70 years old, Bronson has spent most of his adult life in prison. Currently serving a life sentence, he has been behind bars for almost 50 years, moving prisons 120 times, with only four months spent on the outside. What’s more, the majority of those years have been spent in solitary confinement.

His original sentence was just seven years for the armed robbery of a Post Office in 1974 when he was aged 22. However, he's committed a large number of crimes while inside.

Since his initial imprisonment, he’s attacked inmates, attempted to poison another prisoner, taken an art teacher who criticised his artistic abilities hostage for two days (with a skipping rope around his neck), attempted to dig his way out of his cell, staged rooftop protests causing hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of damage, stabbed a fellow patient at a hospital, strangled a prison governor, taken other inmates hostage and attacked guards.

He will now also be the first prisoner to have his parole request heard publicly, after a change in the law.

3. He’s connected to the Krays

From one infamous criminal to two others: Bronson has a connection to the Kray twins. He met both twins in prison in 1975.

Then, in 1992, Bronson met again with Ronnie, after Bronson requested he come to visit him in his cell. 20 prison guards accompanied their meeting. Bronson ended the visit by gifting Kray a pair of boxing gloves.

Bronson has since talked about the ‘special bond’ he shared with the brothers, especially Ronnie, who, like Bronson, was also certified insane and sent to Broadmoor. He’s also publicly defended them in the press, describing them as ‘honourable’.

Ronnie Kray described the prospect of meeting Bronson as ‘the most frightening prison experience I had’.

4. The butter attack

In 2014, Bronson added to his infamy when he attacked twelve prison guards. The crime was prompted by a football result. As a committed Tottenham Hotspur fan, he ‘lost it’ when arch-rivals Arsenal won the FA Cup. The weirder part: he smothered himself in butter beforehand.

Bronson detailed the attack in a letter to Ronnie Kray’s ex-wife, Kate, describing a vision of Ronnie encouraging the incident.

5. He’s a surrealist painter

The latest name change isn’t that strange when you consider Bronson is also a surrealist painter, himself. The man is a prolific painter and poet, published author and cartoonist, whose work has been displayed in galleries in London.

The butter incident inspired Bronson to make amends, by selling his paintings.

After he attacked the guards, Bronson asked Kate Kray to sell his paintings for him, so he could raise enough money to pay for a holiday for his mum, whom he had disappointed with his actions.

6. He claimed to be a spy

In his book, Loonyology, Bronson claimed that after he converted to Islam, two MI5 agents came to try and recruit him to spy on Muslim inmates. Bronson said he spat on them and refused. Prison officials, on the other hand, claimed the meeting never happened.

7. He’s a record breaker

A known strongman who is said to have bent metal doors with his bare hands, Bronson also holds six records related to strength and fitness. One of them is the prison record for the most push-ups in an hour: 1,727. He also claims he can do 172 push-ups in a single minute.

Bronson also holds the unofficial record for the most rooftop protests staged by a UK inmate, having carried out nine of them.

8. He’s connected to Hollywood

In 2008, Tom Hardy took on the role of the prisoner in the eponymous film Bronson. Apparently, the two had regular phone calls while Hardy was preparing for the role. This extended to some sage advice when the actor was going through a breakup, with Bronson telling him: ‘Sometimes.. you've got to cut a little piece of yourself off… in order to grow.’

Bronson then struck up a relationship with the former Coronation Street actress Paula Williamson, who he later married in 2017. Bronson filed for divorce after he saw pictures of Williamson with another man.