Long-term prisoner Charlie Bronson tells the story of his five-year stay at Britain's most notorious mental hospital
In the winter of 1979, aged just 27, the inmate who would come to be known as "Charlie Bronson" was considered uncontrollable by the prison system. Certified insane, he was transferred from Parkhurst Prison to the most infamous high-security psychiatric hospital in England, Broadmoor Asylum for the Criminally Insane. There he embarked on a one-man campaign to retain his sanity, and to fight against the brutality of a largely hidden regime that relied on enforced drug control. This outstandingly honest account takes the reader back to those dark days. It is a journey filled with sadness, and yet it is one that includes much laughter and pathos, as well as detailing the camaraderie among fellow patients, who included Ronnie Kray and Frankie Fraser. How Charlie Bronson survived Broadmoor, what he endured, and the things he witnessed are, for the very first time, documented in this sad, often chilling, sometimes funny, and often moving account of one man's journey into madness and his methods for surviving this notorious psychiatric hospital. Capturing Bronson's unique voice, this roller-coaster ride of madness, pain, laughter, and tears is also a testament to one man's triumph over adversity.
|Publisher:||Blake, John Publishing, Limited|
|Product dimensions:||9.10(w) x 6.00(h) x 1.10(d)|
Read an Excerpt
My Journey Into Hell
By Charlie Bronson, Lorraine Etherington
John Blake Publishing LtdCopyright © 2015 Charlie Bronson (Charles Salvador) and Lorraine Etherington
All rights reserved.
WELCOME TO THE LUNATIC ASYLUM
Fucking hell's bells. How did I end up in the maddest asylum in the world? Me! Me, of all people. How? Why? What the fuck went wrong? Who switched the light off? It's so hard to understand. So difficult to accept. So soul-destroying to fall in line. Why me? I'm not mad ... am I? Could I really be insane? Did I deserve such a fate? How does a young man of twenty-seven face up to this crazy life? It's like waking up to a living, breathing nightmare. Bollocks to it. I can't live my life in this place with all these loonies, can I? Could you? Would you? Fuck it, I couldn't. Why should I?
I don't want to be mad. Prison's a bleeding holiday camp compared to this place. Broadmoor and me never mixed. It's not gonna happen, I'm not gonna let it. I'm gonna fuck this place if it's the last thing I ever do. Or it's going to fuck me. I'm not a fuckable type of geezer. You don't fuck with me. You might try, but you won't get far. You will get hurt ... seriously hurt. I've gotta let this firm know that I'm not taking any shit here. Start off as I intend to finish, a winner. That's my goal. I'll walk out of this place a better man. A sane man, a man of respect, with dignity, and I'll keep my morals. It's game on. Time for fun. A walk on the edge, the dark side. It's bang on. Bronson v Broadmoor. Ding ding, round one!
3 October 1979 – The Rampton van drove through the Hellmoor gates. Yeah, I had just spent eleven months in Rampton asylum. Another seriously godforsaken place. But that's another story for another time. This is the big house. An imposing red brick Victorian building, like in an historical adventure but with human monsters. There were seven Rampton guards in the van with me. As I jumped out, another ten Broadmoor guards were stood waiting for me. Seventeen men in total surrounding me, all of them as big as shithouse doors. The first thing that flashed through my brain was, 'Make sure you hit one before they smash the fuck out of you.'
It was the old routine, lots of eyeballing, weighing up, prodding and pushing, trying it on. 'What have you been up to, then?' one growled. 'We've heard about you. We tame lions here, so you can have it easy or hard, we don't give a fuck which way you want to do it.' They marched me off to Somerset Ward One, which was the reception block. Within five minutes I was in a cold bath freezing my nuts off. 'Hurry up, we ain't got all day,' a guard growled. 'Alright,' I said, 'hold your fucking horses.' He didn't like that. 'Oh, we got a tough guy here lads,' he said, looking round to his mates. It's a vulnerable position to be in, in a bath with ten nosey fuckers hovering over you like vultures.
'Nurses.' What a fucking joke. Let me explain something to you about these Broadmoor 'angels'. Apart from their white jackets, the uniforms are exactly the same as the prison officers. They've even got the size ten boots, and some of them are studded. They carry a bunch of keys, they chew gum, they walk like cowboys and they are fucking bullies. Bullies who stick together in the Prison Officers' Association, still calling themselves 'nurses'. Okay, not all of them. You always get a few humane ones doing a fair job. However, the ten clowns I've got surrounding me are what they are: bastards. They were dying to lay into a poor defenceless lunatic to show him who's the boss. One grabbed my arm to get me out of the bath. 'Fuck it!' I thought. Crack! My head connected perfectly. (My dad always taught me to get the first one in.) Unfortunately, with one down, it still left nine of the fuckers ... the story of my life. So for my first day, I ended up in a cold empty cell with nothing but a cup of water, a smelly, lumpy old mattress and one indestructible blanket. Welcome to Broadmoor.
The cell was approximately ten feet long, five feet wide and maybe twenty feet high. The window was blocked off by a wooden shutter with mesh in it, and there was no heating. It also stank of stale piss and the light switch was outside, so you had no control over it. It also had no call bell, which alone was illegal. Every prison and hospital cell has to have an internal bell in case of emergencies. But as I was soon to find out, Broadmoor has its own rules, their rules and there are no human rights inside Hellmoor. You do as you're told or you get what I just got, a very large injection in your buttocks.
I immediately felt drowsy, heavy and sluggish. My mouth was dry and my eyes were blurred. I collapsed onto the mattress and drifted away into a nightmare. When I woke up I was shaking. My teeth were rattling and I was both hungry and thirsty. I gulped down the water and had a piss in the plastic chamber pot. Then I heard it over the tannoy: 'Would Ron Kray come to the office?' My old mate Ronnie was here! He had arrived from Parkhurst Prison six months earlier and it was in Parkhurst that I had last seen the twins, Ron and Reg Kray. I felt great. About half an hour later I heard another announcement. 'Would Colin Robinson come to the office?' Fuck me, I couldn't believe it. Another of my old Parkhurst buddies. I'd known Robbo since 1974 when he got a life sentence. He got a second life term when he was up in Wakefield and attempted to murder a sex case. Robbo was eventually sent to Broadmoor because he had a weird habit of cutting himself and others, and swallowing things. He'd swallow anything, bedsprings, tobacco tins, nails, screws. But I loved the guy as a brother, so I was double happy to hear both his and Ron's name called out. I found out later that they had both been called to the office and asked if they knew me.
Soon after this, the guards came to see me. 'Both your mates are here and they are very settled. We don't need you unsettling them. Are you going to behave?' They read me the riot act and told me all the Broadmoor rules. They told me that out of the twenty patients on this ward, half of them were very unstable and unpredictable. I said, 'Fuck me, they can't be as bad as you fuckers!' The guard had by now softened his growl. 'Look son, we started off on the wrong foot yesterday. Let's move on and get you up and mixing. First you need some clothes and to get cleaned up.'
So I was let out of the cell and off I strolled to the recess with my pot full of piss and them following me like a couple of dogs. It did go through my head to turn and sling the piss all over them but I actually needed a shit, so I emptied my pot in the sluice and dived into the cubicle for a crap. There ain't nothing in this world like a good shit. I've always taken pride in my health and fitness, and body movements. So when I shit, I feel blessed, because a good working body gets you through anything. I jumped in the shower to freshen up. 'Don't be long in there!' one of them shouted at me. Here we go again, they just can't stop themselves. I came out and one of the guards handed me a lock razor. This was to be the first shave in over a year that I did myself. At Rampton it wasn't allowed. The guards would sit you outside your cell on a chair and make you sit on your hands while they tore away at your face. I was never trusted with a razor, so it felt amazing to be able to shave myself. I was smiling as I did it. I was then handed some clothes. They weren't bad at all, and at least they fit. Not like at Rampton. At Rampton the trousers came up to my calves. It was all part of the asylum mentality, designed to belittle and humiliate you, to make you feel less than human. If you didn't look like a loon when you arrived, you fucking did by the time they'd dressed and shaved you!
I was marched into the day room where I immediately clocked Ronnie and Colin. I was buzzing. It was a wonderful feeling; I actually felt happy for the first time since I'd arrived. Robbo looked his usual mad self and he had recently recovered from a swallowing episode, but Ron didn't look too clever. He had lost a lot of weight and looked terribly gaunt, yet both men made sure I was sorted for goodies, giving me tins of salmon and tuna, chocolates and biscuits as well as teabags.
Now let me explain something to you about Ron. He was a schizophrenic who needed medication to stabilise his mood swings. Without his drugs he was a fucking serious problem. I'd seen him go absolutely berserk in Parkhurst, and I do mean insane; frothing at the mouth, eyes bulging, shaking in anger and almost ripping someone's face off. He put forty stitches in a Scouser's face just for looking at him the wrong way. He attacked a six-foot, six-inch guard once just for farting near him. Ron was a fearless man, but very dangerous without his happy pills. When that beast Peter Sutcliffe hit Broadmoor, Ron told him straight, 'Don't fucking look at me. When I walk in a room, that's when you walk out. Got it?' The Ripper knew not to argue with Ron. Fucking coward anyway, killing innocent women. I hope he rots in there till he's taken to the grave.
I believe at this time the Broadmoor doctors were trying out new drugs on Ron, to try and get a balance that would work for him. He just had that spaced-out look. All he did all day was smoke and drink tea. He seemed to be in a dream-like state. It's also no secret that Ronnie was gay and he used to disappear into the recess with a young loony. In fact Broadmoor was full of gays, some very dangerous ones. But I loved Ronnie like I loved my own dad. To be in his company was like sitting with royalty to me. I was a very lucky guy to share some quality time with him, 'cos fuck- all ever lasts with me. I can remember hearing about Ron's passing like it was yesterday, and fuck me, did it hit me big time. I woke like any other day on 17 March 1995 in Frankland Prison, ate breakfast and went out onto the exercise yard. It was a lovely sunny day, until I was told Ron had died. Well, he will never, ever be forgotten by me. ('Madness is a gift of life. It's how you use it that counts.' RIP Ron Kray)
Colin Robinson was also a tonic for me. Colin and me go back years. He is the original psycho. His eyes could melt ice. He had left behind a trail of destruction through his journey of institutions. This guy was a serious problem for the authorities. This was his second stay at Broadmoor, owing to the fact that they couldn't control him in any jail. So Broadmoor took him in to give the prisons a rest. He once cut up two sex cases with a razor. They lost so much blood they nearly died, and Colin was already serving two life sentences. He just did not give a shit. Believe me, you do not fuck about with men like this. Violence is a way of life to them. They live, breathe and dream it. You could argue that they are cold and heartless but I say, 'Don't fuck with what you can't handle and you're safe.' These types of men are in another world that the ordinary person can't possibly relate to, and you really don't want to.
There was a serious monster on Ron's block. I say a monster not just because his case was monstrous but because he actually also LOOKED like a beast. He had to be the ugliest bastard in the entire asylum. In fact he gave us Broadmites a bad name! One day a loon came over from Norfolk Block to Ron's ward and proclaimed that he had just smashed the monster's head in with a clothes iron. Oh well, ugliness is a gift of life to some. That battering only made him look worse, if that were possible. There is a lot of violence that goes on in the asylum that is just insane: unprovoked attacks and random acts from nowhere, just mindless and totally out of the blue. Like the day a patient bit into a fellow Broadmite's face and wouldn't let go. He was like a rabid, demented dog, hanging on for all he was worth. He was dragged off and injected but the poor loon with half his face hanging off had to be taken off to hospital in an ambulance. It was just another day in the madhouse. There was the man who gulped down a bottle of disinfectant. Why? Who knows? I once witnessed a Broadmite jump over the canteen hotplate, pick up a full urn of soup and throw it all over the loons sitting at the nearest table. No one was able to establish why, I doubt he even knew himself. It's a lonely old existence, surrounded by madmen, never knowing what's going to happen next. You have to be on your toes at all times. Stay alert, be prepared. You have to be more prepared than a fucking Boy Scout if you don't want to be the next victim of a madman and his insanity. Old loons fall asleep in the chairs in the day room ... easy pickings for a psycho on the prowl, looking for their next kill. That's why the patients like me would be useful; we would stop that sort of thing (well, any decent lunatic would!). I could never stand back and allow such cowardice to happen.
I think I'll take this opportunity to explain a bit about the ins and outs of the asylum world, which I am sure the reader will find amazing. For the purpose of this explanation, I'll stick to the induction ward, Somerset One. Somerset used to be called the Monmouth refractory block and it was only for the most disturbed loons. That all stopped one day in 1977 when Bob Maudsley and John Cheeseman took a third patient (David Francis, a convicted child molester) hostage and locked themselves in a cell, torturing him to death over the space of nine hours. Where the fuck were the guards? Nine hours it took them. When they eventually smashed their way into the cell, Francis was dead. His skull had been cracked open and a spoon was wedged in his brain. The new refractory Block was then converted into Norfolk Block sharpish. (Incidentally, Maudsley became known as 'Spoons' after that. Did he eat a piece? I don't know. Could he have done? You can bet your arse on it.) Maudsley was subsequently transferred to Wakefield Prison, where he killed two more inmates before eventually being shipped into 'Monster Mansion', the CSC unit at Wakefield. And fuck me, don't I know enough about that place?! But whilst we're on this subject of notorious inmates, let me tell you a bit more about some other famous Broadmites.
A strange and memorable case was that of Barry Williams. On 26 October 1978, Williams went on a gun rampage in his neighbourhood. He shot and killed five people, four of them his direct neighbours, as well as seriously injuring others who were lucky to survive the shooting. He was sentenced on 26 March 1979 and sent to Broadmoor. Having served fifteen years, he was released in January 1994 and placed in a hostel just six miles from the scene of his crimes. After a public outcry he was moved to a privately run residential home in North Wales. Local speculation suggested that Williams had changed his name, married and moved to Worcestershire. There was also a rumour that he had a child with his wife.
Well, Williams shot and killed five people at random. Why? For the fun of it. He loved a cowboy film. He was always first in front of the TV, right at the front when Clint Eastwood or John Wayne came on the box. I think he was just born in the wrong country and the wrong era. He would have fitted in well with Jesse James and his mob. That was his madness: he never fitted in with society. Anyway, it was around 1981 when I got to share a pot of tea with him and I asked him outright, 'Why did you shoot those five innocent people?' I looked into those black holes he had for eyes and he said simply, 'I don't know.' That day I was sure of one thing: 'That is one Broadmite who is gonna die in the asylum.' Well, how wrong could a person be? I wonder if he still has his trigger finger. It seems so because I heard they nicked him recently. They caught him red-handed with guns and a home-made bomb. [In October 2014 Williams was charged, under his new name of Harry Street, with possession of firearms and making an improvised explosive device, and detained indefinitely.] Fucking insanity at its best. The loon goes on a rampage, killing five innocent people, for no reason whatsoever, and he is let out after fifteen years. I knew it would only be a matter of time before the madness in him resurfaced.
They say there's more out than in – well, Barry Williams is definitely testament to that. Williams was probably the maddest fucker I ever met. He made Hannibal Lecter look like a pussycat. He served less time than I've spent in the strong box. It only confirms what I've known for years: the system is riddled with insanity. When Williams looked up at the night sky in the free world and saw all the beautiful stars above him, I wonder if he ever imagined he might end up back in Broadmoor. The slippery bastard worked his ticket to freedom, that's for sure. He must have a proper brown nose and the taste of shit on his tongue, that's all I know. The mind boggles. Oh well, it is an asylum.
Excerpted from Broadmoor by Charlie Bronson, Lorraine Etherington. Copyright © 2015 Charlie Bronson (Charles Salvador) and Lorraine Etherington. Excerpted by permission of John Blake Publishing Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Broadmoor: A Brief History 1
Part 1 Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum, 1979-84
Chapter 1 Welcome to the Lunatic Asylum 11
Chapter 2 Gloucester House 35
Chapter 3 Norfolk Intensive Care Unit 51
Chapter 4 Kent Block (Ward 3) 67
Chapter 5 Norfolk Block 81
Chapter 6 Up on the Roof Part I (21 May 1981) 87
Chapter 7 Up on the Roof Part II, Day 1 (19 June 1983) 103
Chapter 8 Up on the Roof Part II, Day 2 (20 June 1983) 111
Chapter 9 Up on the Roof Part II, Days 3 and 4 (21-2 June 1983) 115
Chapter 10 Roof III: My Hat Trick (Give Me The Fucking Ball) (14 March 1984) 131
Chapter 11 Seclusion 139
Chapter 12 Reflections of My Mind 147
Part 2 Other Madness
Chapter 13 The Manure Heap and Other Madness 153
Chapter 14 Broadmites Bound 173
Postscript - October 2014 183
Appendix I Broadmoor: Famous Inmates 185
Appendix II Drugs Index 195
Appendix II Official Change of Name 199