Broadmoor Hospital

Broadmoor Hospital is a high-security psychiatric hospital at Crowthorne in the Borough of Bracknell Forest in BerkshireEngland. It is the best known of the three high-security psychiatric hospitals in England, the other two being Ashworth and RamptonScotland has a similar institution at Carstairs, officially known as The State Hospital but often called Carstairs Hospital, which serves Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The Broadmoor complex houses about 260 patients, all of whom are men since the female service closed with most of the women moving to a new service in Southall in September 2007, a few moving to the national high secure service for women at Rampton and a few elsewhere. At any one time there are also approximately 36 patients on trial leave at other units. Most of the patients there suffer from severe mental illness; many also have personality disorders. Most have either been convicted of serious crimes, or been found unfit to plead in a trial for such crimes. The average stay for the total population is about six years, but this figure is skewed by some patients who have stayed for over 30 years; most patients stay for considerably less than six years.

Some Broadmoor scandals – click for external links

Second killer escapes from Broadmoor

Sex-and-kill “snuff” & child abuse movies were among the hard core porn hoard discovered at Broadmoor

I’m a psycho rapist … why did Broadmoor let me out?

Jimmy Savile – Broadmoor & Necrophilia

Patient at Broadmoor with a violent history was able to tape-record confidential staff meetings and smuggle in a mobile phone, a camera and audio tapes

Nurses ‘gave out child-sex filth’

Broadmoor nurse arrested for ‘sleeping with two paedophiles’

Another Broadmoor nurse spared jail over sex with rapist

Broadmoor beast’s flings with 2 nurses

Broadmoor staff ‘forgot to lock up’

Released from Broadmoor for murder in his teens, only to kill again after his release. AKA The Teacup Poisoner – Young poisoned about 70 people

Broadmoor hospital harbours England’s most famous serial killers and now the files are made public

It’s been home to the real Hannibal Lecter, deranged poisoners and a barman who tried to shoot Queen Victoria. Now Broadmoor hospital is finally giving up its secret.

Britain’s Hannibal Lecter, Robert Maudsley, (pic above) killed four people, one of whom he ate. Currently serving a Life means life sentence

Every Monday morning at 10am, a banshee wail howls out over Broadmoor Hospital. For two minutes, the ear- splitting sound rings out like a wartime air raid siren as the alarm system is tested. 

And for any escape-hungry patient who climbs over the high-security walls enclosing the red-brick fortress there is no hiding place when it goes off for real: 13 sirens are in the neighbouring Berkshire towns of Camberley, Bracknell, Bagshot, Wokingham and the nearby village of Crowthorne, all of them connected by a telephone network. 

If somehow a patient does manage to escape, the sirens sound for 20 minutes. Nearby schools, such as Wellington College, have to keep their pupils inside until it is safe for parents to collect them. A cordon is thrown around Crowthorne and all cars are checked at police road blocks. Not until the single-tone ‘All Clear’ sounds can normal life resume. 

This is no ordinary alarm. And there are no ordinary patients imprisoned within. The system was installed after the escape of child murderer John Straffen in 1952.(pic below)

Double Child killer John Straffen who was the longest-serving prisoner in British legal history

While supposedly on cleaning duties, he climbed onto a shed roof and dropped down the other side. He then sauntered into the nearby village of Arborfield and strangled five-year-old Linda Bowyer, who had been out riding her bike. He was soon recaptured, after locals saw him acting strangely and called the police.

Straffen was the kind of deranged murderer who should have been booked into Broadmoor (once better known as Broadmoor Hospital for the Criminally Insane) when he first came to the attention of the authorities

He had already spent half his life in institutions when, aged 21, he saw five-year- old Brenda Goddard picking flowers on Rough Hill behind her home in Bath. Told that there were plenty more flowers higher up, she walked trustingly with Straffen into a nearby wood, where he put his hands around her neck. 

A few days later, he met nine-year-old Cicely Batstone at the cinema and escorted her across Bath to see another film  –  leaving a trail of witnesses  –  before taking her into a field and strangling her. He then bought some chips, slept soundly and could not understand why police woke him early the next morning. 

He confessed readily, later claiming that he committed the murders to provoke the police. Sentenced to death, Straffen was reprieved after legal wrangles over his sanity and died two years ago in Broadmoor aged 77, the longest-serving prisoner in the UK. 

Since then, the only major incident has been the escape of the child rapist James Saunders. Nicknamed the Wolfman, Saunders went on the run after sawing through a one-inch-thick steel bar and squeezing out of a shower-room on the third floor. He was recaptured two days later.

Now Broadmoor has experienced a different kind of breakout: the release of files dating back a century and more, which are being made available to the public for the first time. 

Under the Freedom of Information Act, only records more than 100 years old can be accessed. They include a particularly interesting file on a Broadmoor resident named Thomas Hayne Cutbush. 

A Leading suspect in the Jack the Ripper case  –  and a notorious murderer of women  –  Cutbush was pronounced insane and died in Broadmoor in 1903. From the day of his arrest, the Ripper murders ceased. 

Did Broadmoor harbour England’s most famous serial killer? Certainly, no other prison hospital has lodged such a collection of killers and dreamers; the sad, the mad and the bad. 

Designed by a military engineer, Broadmoor was the first custom-built asylum to house criminal lunatics when it was constructed in 1863. The idea was triggered by the case of James Hadfield, an ex-soldier who, in 1800, while watching a play at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, levelled his pistol at King George III and fired at him. 

He missed; but his subsequent acquittal by reason of insanity caused such public uproar that Parliament speedily passed the Criminal Lunatics Act to provide for the indefinite detention of the insane, and a new institution was born, ‘intended for the reception, safe custody and treatment of persons who had committed crimes while actually insane or who became insane while undergoing sentences of punishment’. 

The possible causes of insanity were listed as ‘anxiety, epilepsy, intemperance, vice, poverty, religious excitement, fright and exposure to hot climates’. The 53-acre site, which now holds 260 men, initially had room for 400 men and 100 women, but not until 1948 did it cease to be a prison and officially become a hospital.

Among the first inmates were two would-be assassins of Queen Victoria. Edward Oxford was 18 and serving beer in a pub when in 1840 something told him to shoot the Queen and Prince Albert as they rode out on Constitution Hill. Both bullets missed, and they were later found to be blanks. 

Oxford was acquitted by reason of insanity and after serving time in an asylum was moved to Broadmoor. He was later offered a discharge in 1867 if he left the country. He emigrated to Australia and made a living as a house painter, dying in 1900. 

Roderick McLean, an unemployed London clerk, was also judged insane after he tried to assassinate the Queen in 1882 as she left Windsor train station. Firing a revolver at her point-blank he missed, and before he could fire again two Eton schoolboys knocked him off balance with their umbrellas. McLean died in Broadmoor 40 years later. 

Many women were imprisoned in Broadmoor for murdering their own children while suffering post-natal depression. 

In 1899, Susannah Bradley jumped into a canal with her eight-month-old baby, leaving a suicide note for her husband that ‘she was not fit to be a mother’. She was rescued, with the baby dead in her arms. After heartfelt pleas from her husband she was released into his care, though dying of pleurisy three years later. 

Infanticide was common in Victorian England, and most judges and Home Secretaries reacted compassionately, waiving death sentences and releasing women back from asylums into the community.

Mass poisoner Graham Young was sentenced to 15 years in Broadmoor which he spent in its well stocked library to research and use patients as guinea pigs

Broadmoor is one of three maximum security psychiatric hospitals in the UK (the others being Ashworth and Rampton), but it has always received the most interesting cases  –  meaning that psychiatrists and doctors compete to work there. Take the particularly fascinating case of Graham Young, a serial killer who poisoned his stepmother and two work colleagues. 

Born in Neasden in 1947, he developed a fascination with poisons and their effect on the human body  –  and started testing them out on his family from the age of 14. He escaped suspicion because he frequently poisoned himself, forgetting which food he had laced. 

Young went to see a psychiatrist who contacted the police. He was sentenced to 15 years in Broadmoor, which he spent in its well-stocked library, continuing his researches and using fellow inmates as guinea pigs. 

On his release, Young joined a photographic supply store in Bovingdon, Hertfordshire, offering to make the tea. He poisoned about 70 people over the next few months  –  none of them fatally at first  –  while taking meticulous notes on the doses and their effects, and on which of his workmates he was eventually going to kill.

After two men, Bob Engle and Fred Biggs, died in agony, an investigation began into the so-called Bovingdon Bug. Young helpfully confided in the police his interest in poisons  –  and had they by chance thought of thallium? 

His flat was searched: quantities of thallium, antimonium and aconitine were found, together with the incriminating notebook. The Teacup Murderer, as he was called, was sentenced to life and died aged 42, in his prison cell, of a heart attack. 

Unusually, several of Broadmoor’s most violent murderers have bonded together  –  perhaps for protection or merely to escape their solitary existence. The serial killer Kenneth Erskine came to the rescue of Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper, when a fellow inmate tried to throttle Sutcliffe with the cable from a pair of stereo headphones. 

Erskine, a sexual psychopath known as the Stockwell Strangler, has been in Broadmoor since 1988, convicted of seven murders and believed to be guilty of four more. Abandoned by his parents at a young age, he went through care homes and special schools before embarking on a successful career as a house burglar. 

In 1987 he began killing his victims, kneeling on their chests then placing his left hand over their mouths while using his right hand to grip their throats and strangle them. Four of them were sexually assaulted before or after death. He was caught after a victim he was throttling managed to press an alarm button, and was given a minimum jail term of 40 years. 

Later, he was judged to have a mental age of seven and to be sufficiently insane to be transferred to Broadmoor where he will stay  –  despite incidents like the one in 1998 when he was attacked by another inmate wielding a home-made flamethrower during the hospital’s New Year celebrations.

The Kray twins are amongst the list of famous patients including Ian Brady and the Yorkshire Ripper

Despite Broadmoor’s exceptional precautions, madmen still find ways of hurting themselves or others. Daniel Gonzales, 26, who arrived at Broadmoor after a homicidal spree over three days in 2004  –  in which he stabbed to death four people and tried to kill two others with a carving knife  –  will not quickly be forgotten. 

Regarded as one of Broadmoor’s most dangerous patients, Gonzales told the police he wanted to be like the character Freddy Krueger from the horror film Nightmare On Elm Street and kill as many people as possible. A psychiatric consultant described him as a schizophrenic capable of ‘extreme, unprovoked and unpremeditated violence’. 

Gonzales was placed on 24-hour observation by nursing staff, with a minimum of two people sitting within arm’s length of him. Unable to kill others, he turned his rage upon himself. On three occasions, in a clear attempt at suicide, he bit himself with a ferocity none of them had witnessed before. 

Finally, last year, he succeeded. He was found by Broadmoor staff lying dead in a pool of blood, having used a broken CD to cut his wrists. 

Despite the many famous patients held at the hospital in recent times  –  the Krays, Ian Brady and the Yorkshire Ripper  –  perhaps the most notorious is one who few of Broadmoor’s residents ever saw, the original Hannibal Lecter. 

Robert Maudsley was in Broadmoor for three years in the Seventies. Born in 1953, he was the son of a Liverpool lorry-driver who beat him mercilessly whenever he came home from the orphanage which had taken him into its care.

He drifted through foster homes and psychiatric hospitals. By 1973 he was a rent boy. Picked up by a labourer who showed him pictures of abused boys, Maudsley garrotted him and was sent to Broadmoor with a new nickname  –  Blue, the colour of the labourer’s face as he was slowly choked to death. 

His next and most lasting nickname was Spoons. In 1977, Maudsley and another psychopath took a third patient, a paedophile, and barricaded themselves into a cell with him. The paedophile was tortured for nine hours before Maudsley garrotted him and held up his body so that the staff could see him through the spy hatch. 
<p>When the staff were let in, they found that the man’s skull had been cracked open like a boiled egg, with part of the brain missing and a spoon hanging out of the cranium. 

Strangely, Maudsley was deemed fit to stand trial after this crime. Despite his pleas to be sent back to Broadmoor, he was committed to Wakefield prison. 

After several more killings, Maudsley now lives in solitary confinement in a two-cell glass cage, very like the one pictured in The Silence Of The Lambs. His furniture is made of compressed cardboard; on his one daily hour of exercise, six prison officers escort him. 

But thuggish serial killers make up a small proportion of Broadmoor’s residents. I discovered the high intelligence of many of the patients when lecturing there  –  one of those present was a gentle academic man, his room stacked to the ceiling with classical CDs. I found out later that he had committed horrendous crimes. 

One of the most famous academic patients was Dr William Chester Minor, an American surgeon immortalised by Simon Winchester in his book The Surgeon Of Crowthorne

Having emigrated to Britain, one day in 1871, after suffering paranoid delusions brought on by his terrible experiences in the American Civil War, Minor produced a revolver and shot dead a boiler stoker from the Red Lion Brewery in London. 

He remained in Broadmoor for 38 years, building up a library from which he volunteered thousands of citations for words appearing in the Oxford English Dictionary. 

Broadmoor, with its dark red brick, its towers, heavily barred windows, gaunt cell-blocks and long corridors, was an intimidating place. But Minor, engaged on his great enterprise, seemed hardly to notice. So industrious was he that the editor of the OED, James Murray, arrived in person to visit him and became a firm friend. 

Murray was not present when Minor, demented by sexual longings, sawed off his penis with a pen-knife, tied a ligature of string over the stump and threw the rest of the offending organ into the fire. In a steady voice he called for the Medical Officer, and survived. 

Every patient in Broadmoor has a story. From Chalk Pit Murderer Thomas Ley  –  who tortured and murdered the man he suspected to be his wife’s lover  –  to Antony Baekeland, great-grandson of the founder of Bakelite, who murdered his mother before ordering a Chinese takeaway. 

She was alleged to have coerced her homosexual son into sexual intercourse after a succession of prostitutes had failed to inspire him. He was released after eight years at Broadmoor, only to stab his grandmother in New York City. He was institutionalised again, before, in 1981, being found suffocated with a plastic bag. 

Broadmoor Special Hospital is no longer called an asylum for the criminally insane.

The hospital, very well run and providing the finest psychiatric care, has nevertheless recently had to upgrade its security. Razor wire has been strung around the perimeter. Healthcare may improve, but human nature, in the last resort, remains as ungovernable as ever.

Notable patients of Broadmoor Hospital – past and present

Paedophile: Double Child rapist James Saunders, dubbed The Wolfman

James Saunders, 44, (as of 2012) (pic above in 1985) was detained for life for raping two girls aged 11 and 15 in 1985, twice broke out of Broadmoor in the early nineties. He was dubbed The Wolfman after living in the wild for three weeks while on the run.

  • Sharon Carr. Sharon stabbed her first victim Katie Rackliff when she was just 12.

  • Peter Bryan is an English serial killer and cannibal who committed three murders between 1993 and 2004


The hospital was previously known as the Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum; the change of name reflects a change in attitude towards mental illness, criminals, and the word “asylum”.

The hospital was built to a design by Sir Joshua Jebb, an Officer of the Corps of Royal Engineers, and covers 210,000 square metres (53 acres) within its secure perimeter. It received its first female patients on 27 May 1863, with the first male patients arriving on 27 February 1864. The original building plan of six blocks for men and two for women was completed in 1868. A further male block was built in 1902.

Due to overcrowding at Broadmoor, a branch asylum was constructed at Rampton Secure Hospital and opened in 1912. Rampton was closed as a branch asylum at the end of 1919 and reopened as an institution for mental defectives rather than lunatics. During World War I Broadmoor’s block 1 was also used as a prisoner-of-war camp, called Crowthorne War Hospital, for mentally ill German soldiers.

After the escape and the murder of a local child in 1952 by John Straffen the hospital set up an alarm system, which is activated to alert people in the vicinity, including those in the surrounding towns of SandhurstWokinghamBracknell and Bagshot, when any potentially dangerous patient escapes. It is based on World War II air-raid sirens, and a two-tone alarm sounds across the whole area in the event of an escape. It is tested every Monday morning at 10 am for two minutes, after which a single tone ‘all-clear’ is sounded for a further two minutes. All schools in the area must keep procedures designed to ensure that in the event of a Broadmoor escape no child is ever out of the direct supervision of a member of staff. Sirens are located at Sandhurst School, Wellington College, Bracknell Forest council depot and other sites. As well as providing patient care Broadmoor is a centre for training and research.

Following the Peter Fallon QC inquiry into Ashworth Special Hospital, which found, amongst other things, serious concerns about security and abuses that came about from poor management, it was decided to review the security at all three special hospitals. Until this time each special hospital was responsible for maintaining its own security policies.

This review was made the personal responsibility of Sir Alan Langlands who at the time was Chief Executive of the National Health Service (England). The report that came out of the review initiated a new partnership to be formed whereby the Department of Health sets out a policy of safety and security directions that all three special hospitals must adhere to. These directions are then updated or modified as needed.

This has resulted in upgraded physical security at Broadmoor from approximately category ‘C’ to category ‘B’ prison standards. Higher levels of security than this are then placed around certain buildings. New standards have also been formulated to increase procedural security and safety for the staff and other patients; these include procedures and equipment for reducing the amount of contraband smuggled into the hospital.

Before the Langlands report, it had been an anathema in modern psychiatry to think of enclosing the mentally ill behind razor wire. As this type of security measure had been seen as unnecessary, it was thought that it would only serve to reinforce the stigma against psychiatric patients if it were to be employed

Misconceiving it as a prison

Because of the outside appearance of the buildings, especially its high walls and other visible security features, and the inaccurate news reporting it has in the past received, it is occasionally presumed by some members of the general public that Broadmoor Hospital is a prison. Many of its patients are indeed referred to it by the criminal justice system, and its original design brief incorporated an essence of addressing criminality in addition to mental illness; however, the layout inside and the daily routine are designed to assist the therapy practised there rather than to meet the criteria necessary for it to be run along the lines of a prison in its daily functions. Many staff were often members of the Prison Officers Association, as opposed to the health service unions like UNISON.

Jimmy Noak, Broadmoor’s director of nursing, in response to claims that criminals were being given unfairly pleasant treatment in the facility, commented, “It’s not fair, but what is the alternative? If these people committed crimes because they were suffering from an acute mental illness then they should be in hospital.”


From its opening until 1948 Broadmoor was managed by a Council of Supervision, appointed by and reporting to the Secretary of State for the Home Department (Home Secretary). Thereafter, the Criminal Justice Act of 1948 transferred ownership of the Hospital to the Department of Health (and the new NHS) and oversight to the Board of Control for Lunacy and Mental Deficiency established under the Mental Deficiency Act 1913. It also renamed the hospital Broadmoor Institution. The Hospital remained under direct control of the Department of Health – a situation which reportedly “combined notional central control with actual neglect” until the establishment of the Special Hospitals Service Authority in 1989, with Charles Kaye as initial Chief Executive.

In 1996 the SHSA itself was abolished, being replaced by individual special health authorities in each of the High Secure Hospitals. The Broadmoor Hospital Authority was itself dissolved on 31 March 2001. Then on 1 April 2001 West London Mental Health (NHS) Trust took over the responsibility for this hospital. This Trust reports to the NHS Executive through the London Strategic Health Authority

Current research

A new unit called the Paddock Centre was opened on 12 December 2005 to treat patients with a dangerous severe personality disorder (DSPD). This is a new and much debated diagnosis or label that has two criteria. The first criterion is that the individual be ‘dangerous’, i.e. they are considered to be or represent a ‘Grave and Immediate Danger’ to the general public. It has been suggested that the threshold for this criterion be set at a greater than 50% chance of that individual committing serious harm upon another, from which the victim is unlikely to recover.

The second DSPD criterion is that the individual suffers from a ‘severe personality disorder’, meaning that he or she has:

  1. A diagnosis of two or more personality disorders that meet the criteria as laid out in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM IV –TR; or

  2. A significant score (i.e. 30 or higher) on the Hare Psychopathy Check list – Revised (PCL-R); or

  3. A slightly lower score (i.e. 25 to 29) on the Hare Psychopathy Check list and with one or more personality disorders but not including an Antisocial personality disorder diagnosis.

Rather than create a new Mental Health Act, it may now only require the existing laws to be updated in order that people can be assessed for this condition before they have been committed to the forensic services by another route. The DSPD service in the Paddock Centre will be limited to men, as it is not yet scientifically agreed whether any women meet this criterion.

Individuals who do meet this criterion will be admitted to the new Paddock unit only as and when sufficient staff have been trained to be able to provide and maintain the right therapeutic programmes and environment. The Paddock Centre is designed to eventually house 72 patients, and is one of four units being set up in England and Wales.