Robert Maudsley

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Robert Maudsley
Robert John Maudsley

(1953-06-26) 26 June 1953 (age 68)
Other namesHannibal The Cannibal
The Brain Eater
Conviction(s)3 counts of murder, 1 count of manslaughter
Criminal penaltyLife imprisonment (Whole life tariff)
Span of crimes
Location(s)London, Broadmoor, Wakefield Prison

Robert John Maudsley (born 26 June 1953)[1] is an English serial killer. Maudsley killed four people, with three of the killings taking place in prison after receiving a life sentence for a murder.[2] Initial reports falsely stated he ate part of the brain of one of the men he killed in prison, which earned him the nickname Hannibal the Cannibal among the British press[3] 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.[4][5] Since the death of Ian Brady, Maudsley has been the longest-serving British prisoner and the earliest person still living to be subject to a whole life order.[6]

Early life[edit]

Robert Maudsley was one of 12 children, born in Speke, Liverpool, spending his early years in a Catholic orphanage in Crosby.[7] At the age of eight, Maudsley was retrieved by his parents and subjected to routine physical abuse until he was eventually removed from their care by social services.[3] Maudsley later stated that he was raped as a child, and such early abuse had left deep psychological scars.

As a teenager during the late 1960s, Maudsley was a sex worker in London, using his income 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.[3] He is quoted as saying "If I had killed my parents in 1970, none of these people would have died."[3][8]


In 1974,[9] Maudsley garrotted John Farrell in Wood Green, London. Farrell picked up Maudsley for sex and showed him pictures of children he had sexually abused.[10] Maudsley surrendered himself to police, saying he needed psychiatric care. Maudsley was found unfit to stand trial and instead was sent to Broadmoor Hospital. In 1977, he and another resident, David Cheeseman, locked themselves in a cell with a third patient named David Francis, a convicted child molester. They tortured him to death over a period of nine hours.[3] 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.[3] Maudsley was later sentenced to life imprisonment with a recommendation that he never be released.

In 1978, Maudsley killed two fellow prisoners at Wakefield Prison in one day. His first victim was Salney Darwood, 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 other prisoners into his cell, but all refused.[3] Maudsley then prowled the wing hunting for a second victim, eventually cornering and stabbing prisoner William Roberts to death. He hacked at Roberts' skull with a makeshift dagger and then struck his head against the wall multiple times. Maudsley calmly walked into the wing office, placed the dagger on the table and told the officer that the next roll call would be two short.[3]


  • John Farrell, age 30, on 14 March 1974.
  • David Francis, age 26, on 26 February 1977. Francis was a convicted child molester, sentenced to Broadmoor.
  • Salney Darwood, age 46, on 29 July 1978. At the time of his death, Darwood was serving life for the manslaughter and severe domestic violence of his wife Blanche.
  • William Roberts, age 56, on 29 July 1978. At the time of his death, Roberts was serving seven years for the 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. Due to his history of violence, when outside his cell he is escorted by at least four prison officers.[3]

At around 5.5 by 4.5 metres (18 by 15 ft), 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 basin 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 transparent acrylic panels, with a small slot at the bottom through which officers 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.[3]

In March 2000, Maudsley unsuccessfully pleaded for the terms of his solitary confinement be relaxed, or to be allowed to take his own life via a cyanide capsule. He also asked for a pet budgerigar, which was also denied.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Prentice, Eve-Ann (24 February 2003). "'I feel I've been buried alive'". The Times.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  2. ^ Ford, Richard (29 June 2017). "Serial killer Robert Maudsley held in solitary for 39 years". The Times.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Thompson, Tony (27 April 2003). "The caged misery of Britain's real 'Hannibal the Cannibal'". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 January 2016.
  4. ^ Wade, Bethany (2 April 2020). "Robert Maudsley: The cannibal killer who inspired Hannibal Lecter". Film Daily. Archived from the original on 6 August 2020.
  5. ^ "News & Features". Archived from the original on 13 March 2012. Retrieved 17 April 2015.
  6. ^ "From Rose West to Peter Sutcliffe: All the people on whole-life sentences in prison right now". 1 January 2021. Archived from the original on 3 February 2022. Retrieved 22 March 2021.
  7. ^ Dunn, Connor (15 July 2018). "'Brain-Eater' killer is now 40 YEARS into solitary confinement stretch". Liverpool Echo. Retrieved 30 December 2020.
  8. ^ "Tragic life that led to Hannibal killings". Liverpool Echo. 7 May 2003. Retrieved 8 November 2016.
  9. ^ a b "Killer begs for budgie or suicide". BBC News. 23 March 2000. Retrieved 8 November 2016.
  10. ^ Rickall, Charles (2007). Yorkshire's Multiple Killers: Yorkshire Cases c. 1915–2006. Casemate Publishers. p. 103. ISBN 978-1783408597.