The Notorious Inmates of Broadmoor

Josie Klakström
14 min readSep 3, 2020

From the safety of my aunt and uncle’s garden, my cousins and I played cricket on a Sunday afternoon on the flat patio area of their Bracknell Forest home in England. In the distance, there was a familiar sound I’d heard many times before, and the hairs on my arms bristled.

It was the Broadmoor siren. An inmate had escaped.

We were quickly ushered into the house and the doors were promptly locked. Normally in this situation, an adult would close the blinds and curtains, but my aunt’s home had neither. The large, single-glazed windows were the only barrier protecting us from the outside world, as we hid behind large pieces of furniture.

Broadmoor Hospital via The Sun

Broadmoor Hospital is the oldest high-security facility in the UK. Originally named the Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum, it was built for men and women in 1863. Contrary to popular belief, the facility isn’t a prison and the daily operations are very different. Instead, sessions are based around therapy rather than the usual prison practises, such as job roles. Patients are often diagnosed with personality disorders and mental illness and can’t be incarcerated in a normal reformatory prison.

In 1912, Broadmoor was overcrowded and was in desperate need of another building to house patients. A branch in Rampton, Nottinghamshire was built and housed the overflow from Broadmoor. The branch was closed seven years later but reopened as a defective’s institution, instead. Broadmoor Hospital now holds 284 beds and is just a men’s facility. Rampton Secure Hospital had just under 400 beds and both facilities are managed by the NHS.

Broadmoor has faced criticism over the years but not even Charles Bronson’s roof protests could prepare the facility for the backlash of Jimmy Saville.


From 1968, DJ and TV presenter Jimmy Saville volunteered at Broadmoor Hospital and would talk to the patients in a room that the facility had given him for personal use. Broadmoor CEO, Pat McGrath, believed that Saville’s presence would help with the negative publicity Broadmoor was used to. Since 1952, the hospital had been swimming against the tide to create some positive PR, due to John Straffen’s escape.



Josie Klakström

Josie is a freelance journo who writes about writing, true crime, culture and marketing.