Longer term for dangerous prisoner

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The Independent Online
Britain's most dangerous prisoner - who has bent cell doors with his bare hands - had seven years tagged on to his jail sentence yesterday after admitting taking three fellow inmates hostage in a bid to escape.

Michael Peterson, who changed his name to Charles Bronson, told prison officers that he had had "a bad day" after bundling the captives into his cell and threatening to snap their necks and cut their throats unless he was freed.

Bronson, 44, has spent 21 of the past 25 years in solitary confinement because of dangerous behavioural problems, a court at the Old Bailey was told.

On 27 September last year, he exploded into a rage shortly after breakfast at Belmarsh Prison, south-east London, grabbing two Iraqi prisoners and his only "friend" before tying them up and demanding a helicopter and a sub-machine gun.

Jeremy Donne, for the prosecution, said Bronson first said he intended flying to Cuba in the helicopter before changing his plan and asking to be taken to Heathrow, from where a jet was supposed to fly him to Libya.

If his demands were not met within an hour, he told negotiators: "You will have to bring in four bodyguards and four body bags. I have a blade and will cut them up. None of us are going to leave, even if it means me getting one in the head. I am number one hostage-taker."

Eventually, he surrendered without further incident.

Asked how he pleaded to charges of threatening to kill the hostages, he replied: "Guilty - as guilty as OJ Simpson" and "Guilty - as guilty as Adolf Hitler."

The Iraqi prisoners are accused of hijacking a Sudan Airways jet to London last year.

Mr Donne said Bronson was considered by the Prison Service to be the most disruptive inmate in the country.

He was transferred to Belmarsh in 1996 where governors and prison staff put a great deal of effort into his social development. But, he added, Bronson "had a clear problem in getting on with other prisoners.

"He is a large, strong man who keeps himself extremely fit and has been known to bend cell doors with his bare hands," Mr Donne told the court.

"Because of his strength and unpredictable behaviour and attitude to other prisoners, he has spent 21 of his last 25 years in segregated units - effectively in solitary confinement."

Isabella Forshall, for the defence, said Bronson had told her: "It was a bad day. I hope it will never happen again."

She said his management in prison had sometimes been exacerbated by conditions and prolonged isolation which left him phobic with other people. He was so isolated, he once asked for a blow-up doll - not for sexual reasons, but for someone to talk to. It was not granted.

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