Charles Arthur “Charlie” Salvador (better known as Charles Bronson and born Michael Gordon “Mickey” Peterson; 6 December 1952) is an English criminal who is often referred to in the British press as the “most violent prisoner in Britain” and “Britain’s most notorious prisoner”. He has also spent periods detained in the Rampton, Broadmoor and Ashworth high-security psychiatric hospitals.
Born in Luton, Bedfordshire (although the Daily Mirror reported that he was born in Aberystwyth, Wales), he became a petty criminal before being sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment for armed robbery in 1974. While in prison, he began making a name for himself as a loose cannon, often fighting convicts and prison officers. He also embarked on one-man rooftop protests, often vandalising prison buildings. Regarded as a “problem prisoner”, he was moved 120 times through Her Majesty’s Prison Service and spent most of that time in solitary confinement. What was originally a seven-year term stretched out to a fourteen-year sentence that resulted in his first wife, Irene, with whom he had a son, leaving him. He was released on 30 October 1988, but spent merely sixty-nine days as a free man before he was arrested again.
Bronson is one of the highest-profile criminals in Britain and has been featured in books, interviews, and studies in prison reform and treatment. In his own words: “I’m a nice guy, but sometimes I lose all my senses and become nasty. That doesn’t make me evil, just confused.” He was the subject of the 2008 film Bronson starring Tom Hardy, a biopic based loosely around his life. Bronson has written many books about his experiences and famous prisoners he has met throughout his incarceration. A self-declared fitness fanatic who has spent many years in segregation, Bronson dedicated a book to working out in confined spaces. He has also cultivated a reputation as an outsider artist, with his paintings and illustrations of prison and psychiatric hospital life being publicly exhibited and winning him multiple awards.
In 2014 he announced that he was changing his name again, this time to Charles Salvador in a mark of respect to one of his favourite artists, Salvador Dalí, and to distance himself from his existing reputation. The Charles Salvador Art Foundation was founded to promote his artwork and “help those in positions even less fortunate than his own” to participate in art.