Robert Maudsley

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Robert Maudsley
Robert John Maudsley.jpg
Robert John Maudsley

(1953-06-26) 26 June 1953 (age 66)
Other namesHannibal The Cannibal
The Brain Eater
Conviction(s)4 counts of murder
Criminal penaltyLife Imprisonment
Span of crimes

Robert John Maudsley (born 26 June 1953) is a British serial killer responsible for the murders of four people. He committed three of these murders in prison after receiving a life sentence for a single murder.[1] He was alleged to have eaten part of the brain of one of three men he killed in prison, which earned him the nickname Hannibal the Cannibal among the British press[2] and “The Brain Eater” amongst other prisoners; however, the Press Complaints Commission records that national newspapers were subsequently advised that the allegations were untrue, according to the autopsy report.[3] Since the death of Ian Brady, Maudsley has become the longest-serving British prisoner and the earliest person still living to be subject to a whole life order.

Early life[edit]

Robert Maudsley was one of twelve children, born in the Toxteth area of Liverpool, and spent most of his early years in a Catholic orphanage in Crosby, Merseyside. At the age of 8, Maudsley was retrieved by his parents and subjected to routine physical abuse until he was eventually removed from their care by social services.[2] Maudsley later claimed that he was raped as a child, and such early abuse may have left deep psychological scars.

During the late 1960s, a teenage Maudsley worked as a rent boy in London to support his drug addiction. He was forced to seek psychiatric help after several suicide attempts. It was during his talk with doctors that he claimed to hear voices telling him to kill his parents.[2] He is quoted as saying 'If I had killed my parents in 1970, none of these people need have died.'[2][4]


In 1974,[5] Maudsley garrotted a man who picked him up for sex after the man showed Maudsley pictures of children he had sexually abused. Maudsley was arrested and later sentenced to life imprisonment with a recommendation that he should never be released. Maudsley was sent to Broadmoor Hospital, where, in 1977, he and another inmate, David Cheeseman, locked themselves in a cell with a third patient (a convicted child molester) and tortured him to death over a period of nine hours.[2] After this incident, Maudsley was convicted of manslaughter and sent to Wakefield Prison. He disliked the transfer and made it clear he wanted to return to Broadmoor.[2]

One afternoon in 1978, Maudsley killed two fellow prisoners at Wakefield Prison. His first victim of the day was Salney Darwood, a murderer convicted of the manslaughter of his wife. Maudsley had invited Darwood to his cell, where he garrotted and stabbed him before hiding his body under his bed. He then attempted to lure more fellow prisoners into his cell, but all refused.[2] Maudsley then prowled the wing hunting for a second victim, eventually cornering and stabbing prisoner Bill Roberts to death. He hacked at Roberts' skull with a makeshift dagger and smashed his head against the wall. Maudsley then calmly walked into the prison officer's room, placed the dagger on the table and told him that the next roll call would be two short.[2]


  • John Farrell, age 30, on March 14, 1974.
  • David Francis, age 26, on February 26, 1977. Francis was a convicted child molester, sentenced to Broadmoor.
  • Salney Darwood, age 46, on July 29, 1978. At the time of his death, Darwood was serving life for the manslaughter of his wife Blanche.
  • William Roberts, age 55, on July 29, 1978. At the time of his death, Roberts was serving 7 years for sexual assault of a seven-year-old girl.

Solitary confinement[edit]

In 1983, Maudsley was deemed too dangerous for a normal cell. Prison authorities built a two-cell unit in the basement of Wakefield Prison – dubbed the 'glass cage', noted for its resemblance to Hannibal Lecter's cell in the film The Silence of the Lambs – to house Maudsley for the continuation of his confinement.[2]

At around 5.5 metres by 4.5 metres, the two cells are slightly larger than average and have large bulletproof windows through which he can be observed. The only furnishings are a table and chair, both made of compressed cardboard. The lavatory and sink are bolted to the floor while the bed is a concrete slab. A solid steel door opens into a small cage within the cell, encased in thick see-through acrylic panels, with a small slot at the bottom through which guards pass him food and other items. He remains in the cell for all but an hour daily. During his daily hour of exercise, he is escorted to the yard by six prison officers. He is not allowed contact with any other inmates.

In March 2000, Maudsley unsuccessfully pleaded for the terms of his solitary confinement be relaxed, or to be allowed to commit suicide via a cyanide capsule. He also asked for a pet budgerigar (a parakeet, in American English), which was also denied.[5] In 2010, Maudsley made a plea to be able to play board games with prison staff to relieve his boredom.[6]


  1. ^ "Google Groups". Retrieved 8 November 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Thompson, Tony (27 April 2003). "The caged misery of Britain's real 'Hannibal the Cannibal'". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 January 2016.
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 13 March 2012. Retrieved 17 April 2015. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ "Tragic life that led to Hannibal killings". Liverpool Echo. 7 May 2003. Retrieved 8 November 2016.
  5. ^ a b "Killer begs for budgie or suicide". Retrieved 8 November 2016.
  6. ^ "Mirror | Cannibal Robert Maudsley in jail plea to play board games". 6 April 2010. Retrieved 25 April 2017.