15 Revelations About Robert Maudsley, The Real-Life 'Hannibal The Cannibal'

Between 1974 and 1978, Robert John Maudsley killed four victims - including a convicted child molester and a convicted murderer - three of whom he attacked while in prison or a psychiatric hospital. Because Maudsley was able to fatally injure people despite being in high-security facilities, a special cell was constructed to protect other inmates from the man the press has called "Britain's Most Dangerous Prisoner."

Maudsley has also been referred to as the real "Hannibal the Cannibal" - the fictional doctor turned murderer from the movie Silence of the Lambs - not just because of his glass cell and high IQ, but also because he allegedly ate the brain of one of his victims. While Maudsley has murdered far fewer people than many of his counterparts, he is considered one of the worst British serial killers simply because of the sheer brutality of his crimes.

  • He Grew Up In An Orphanage

    He Grew Up In An Orphanage
    Photo: Maudsley Family Photo / via Liverpool Echo / Public Domain

    Shortly before he turned 2, authorities removed Maudsley, his two brothers, and his sister from their family home due to parental child abuse. Child services placed Maudsley and his siblings in a Catholic orphanage in Liverpool, and the children developed close relationships with one another and the nuns who ran the children's home.

    However, Maudsley's parents returned to the orphanage many years later and brought the four children back to their home to live with the additional eight kids they'd had while Maudsley and his siblings were in the orphanage. Not long after Maudsley and his brothers moved back in with their parents, their father allegedly physically abused them. A year later, when Maudsley was approximately 10 years old, authorities placed him in foster care.

  • He Was Allegedly Abused As A Child

    According to Maudsley, his father, George, repeatedly abused him and two of his brothers. Maudsley's brother Paul said their father hit them, and sometimes incorporated objects like his belt or a stick. He maintained their mother, Jean, told their father about minor infractions, like not coming right home after school, to incite the beatings.

    Paul also said when they weren't being beaten, both parents ignored the boys, making for a home environment in which they felt unwanted and unloved. Authorities only removed Maudsley from the home to live with a foster family.

  • He Became A Sex Worker To Support His Drug Addiction

    While in foster care, Maudsley’s father reportedly told his siblings that he had died. It wasn’t until years later Maudsley’s brother and sisters found out he was still alive. When he was just 16 years old, Maudsley left his foster family's home and moved to London on his own. 

    Soon after arriving in England's capital city, Maudsley became addicted to drugs, and the teenager got involved with sex work to pay for his expensive habit.

  • His First Victim Was An Alleged Child Molester

    It was while working as a prostitute that Maudsley met his first murder victim, a laborer named John Farrell. After having sex with Farrell on March 14, 1974, Maudsley claims the laborer showed him photographs of children he had sexually abused. Angered, 20-year-old Maudsley - who claims he was sexually abused as a boy - strangled, stabbed, and beat Farrell.

    Unfit to stand trial, the courts sentenced Maudsley to life in Broadmoor Hospital, a psychiatric facility. 

  • He Was Sent To A High-Security Psychiatric Hospital For Killing His First Victim

    Before killing his first victim, Maudsley had attempted suicide multiple times, and he'd even told a psychiatrist that he'd heard voices commanding him to murder his mother and father. Due to Maudsley's personal history and the extenuating circumstances surrounding John Farrell's killing, he was convicted of manslaughter - not murder - because of diminished responsibility.

    In 1974, Maudsley received a life sentence for the killing, and he was sent to Broadmoor Hospital in Crowthorne, England, to serve his time. Broadmoor Hospital is a high-security psychiatric facility that has housed some of Britain's most notorious criminals.

  • He Tortured And Murdered A Man While In The Psychiatric Hospital

    In 1977, while serving his life sentence in Broadmoor Hospital, Maudsley and another patient, John Cheeseman, forced a third patient, convicted pedophile David Francis, into an office and tied him up with an electrical cord. Over the course of several hours, Maudsley and Cheeseman tortured Francis, claiming the child molester had sexually assaulted one of their friends. 

    After subjecting Francis to nine hours of beatings in the barricaded room, Maudsley strangled Francis. Following the murder, Maudsley and Cheeseman allowed hospital staff to enter. According to a guard who was present on the scene, the victim's head had been “cracked open” and a spoon was sticking out from his skull.

    Reportedly, a section of Francis's brain was missing, leading many to speculate that Maudsley had cannibalized a portion of his victim's body. However, several people familiar with the case have deemed this account false.