Longest-Serving Robert Mawdsley–and his 50 Years in Solitary Confinement

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND – Robert Mawdsley, 70, has spent 50 years behind bars, the last 45 of which have been in solitary confinement, making him a record-holder for such an extensive period of isolation as a prisoner. Mawdsley, known as ‘Hannibal the Cannibal’ due to false reports of consuming one of his victim’s brains, was incarcerated in 1974 at the age of 21 for the murder of 30-year-old John Farrell.

Following the murder, Mawdsley has spent most of his time in a specially built 18 foot by 15 foot cell, protected by bulletproof glass, which was constructed for him in 1983. Mawdsley’s nephew, Gavin, described his uncle as “well-read” and content with his solitary confinement, although Mawdsley himself has expressed feeling like he’s “being buried alive in a coffin.”

In 2021, Mawdsley lost an appeal to spend Christmas with other people and was informed that he would remain enclosed in his “glass box” until his death. Once, he wrote to newspapers campaigning for better treatment during the early days of his confinement, and in 2000, he sought permission from the courts to be allowed to die.

Mawdsley is believed to be the longest-serving prisoner in Britain after Moors murderer Ian Brady, who served 51 years, and US prisoner Albert Woodfox, who held the world record for solitary confinement at 43 years before his release in 2016. A spokesman for The Ministry of Justice refuted claims of solitary confinement in the prison system, stating that offenders who pose a risk to others are segregated but still receive essential services like everyone else.

After 50 years behind bars, with over 45 years in solitary confinement, Robert Mawdsley remains one of the most notorious and isolated prisoners in the world.