Robert Maudsley
1st June 1953

Is Robert Maudsley truly "Britain's most dangerous man?" Or is he himself the victim of exceptional mistreatment at the hands of the penal system?

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Robert Maudsley

Robert Maudsley in a cell prior to his period of solitary confinement that began in 1983.

Widely regarded to be the most dangerous man within the British penal system, Maudsley has been kept in solitary confinement in HMP Wakefield since 1983, and has been called the "real life Hannibal the Cannibal." While his crimes have been over-sensationalised by the press, he is responsible for four murders - three of which were committed while Maudsley was actually in prison.

Born in in the tough district of Toxteth in Merseyside, Maudsley was one of 12 children - but spend his earliest years in an orphanage run by nurses. After his parents retrieved him at the age of around 8, he alleges that he was subject to physical and sexual abuse. That Social Services removed him from his parents, gives credence to his story.

Moving to London in the latter half of the 60s, Maudsley supported himself through gay sex work, and it was in this situation that he committed his first murder in 1974. One of his clients showed him pictures of himself committing child abuse, and Maudsley murdered him. So violent was the murder that he was sent to prison with a recommendation that he never be released.

By 1977, his mental condition had deteriorated still further, and he was sent to Broadmoor Hospital. It was while at Broadmoor that he committed his second murder. On learning that a fellow patient was a convicted paedophile, Maudsley and another patient - David Cheeseman - lured the man to their room, where they barricaded themselves in and took the man hostage. Over the course of 9 hours, they tortured him to death.

Found guilty of manslaughter, Maudsley was sent back to the general prison population and to HMP Wakefield. It was at Wakefield where he killed two fellow inmates in one afternoon.

First, he lured Salney Yarwood to his cell. Yarwood had been convicted of the manslaughter of his wife. Maudsley first garrotted then stabbed him to death with a 'dagger' he had fashioned while in prison. He then identified a second prisoner - Bill Roberts - and killed him in an even more brutal fashion - hacking at his head with his makeshift dagger, before smashing his head open on the wall. 

According to lurid reports at the time - later shown to be false - a spoon was found in Roberts' open cranium, with large parts of the brain missing. It was from these false reports that Maudsley's infamy as a 'cannibal' stem.

After failing to lure other prisoners to his cell, Maudsley walked to the warden's office, placed the dagger on his desk and informed him that that evening's headcount would be two short.

Following these savage attacks, Maudsley was judged to be too dangerous to staff and fellow inmates and a unique holding facility was built to hold him in the basement of HMP Wakefield. 

Since 1983 he has been held in a cell of glass, perspex and steel, measuring 16ft by 12ft in size. He is not permitted sheets, and sleeps on a bare bunk made of concrete. His table is made of compressed cardboard. During the 35 years since, he has been not allowed to make contact with any other prisoners - nor are guards permitted to speak to him. He takes his exercise hour alone, overseen by 6 guards. Other than that, he spends 23 hours a day in solitary confinement.

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Author: Ian Freud   |  Last updated: 26th September 2017 | © Weird Island 2010-2020
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