Saturday, 30 Sep 2023

Charles Bronson visited by 'first love' after 50 years and hopes to remarry

Charles Bronson’s ex-wife and ‘first love’ has revealed he wants to rekindle their romance after she visited him in prison for the first time in nearly 50 years.

Irene Dunroe, 71, married Britain’s most notorious inmate back in 1971, when he still went by his real name Michael Peterson.

They split in 1976 but remained in contact, with Irene initially writing letters, before phoning and now going to see him at the high security HMP Woodhill where he is being held.

Mum-of-three Irene says Bronson – who changed his name again in recent years in tribute to the Spanish surrealist artist Salvador Dali – even spoke about buying her a ring.

But she added she wants to take things slowly and help him get his freedom first.

Irene spent two hours with Bronson on August 29 and hopes to see him again before Christmas.

She said: ‘He said I haven’t changed at all and he was looking into my eyes and saying you’ve still got the same gorgeous eyes. He was full of compliments.

‘He’s always saying that he wants to try the relationship, and that he’s always loved me – that I’m his first love.

‘We don’t know what’s in the future but he says he wants to get a ring for me for Christmas so he is thinking things like that. But I’m not sure on all of that yet.’

Irene and Bronson, who she still affectionately calls Mick, met when they were teenagers and married soon after. They have a son, also Michael, now aged 51.

She said she was taken by his dapper dress sense – and Cockney accent.

Both have since remarried, Bronson twice and Irene once. She also had two other children with her second husband.

But both are now single again – and she visited him to talk in person for the first time in almost five decades after exchanging phone calls and letters.

Irene, who visited Bronson at the Milton Keynes jail with her daughter, said: ‘I ran up to him as soon as I walked in. He picked me up and spun me around as I hugged him.

‘He showed me some of his tattoos and he took one of his socks off which had moustache all over them and the tattoo had my name on it, which I didn’t know about.

‘He was talking about when he gets out he said he’s going to take me on holiday.

‘We got Mick some things from the shop there and we gave him some chocolate bars and he was made up – he was so pleased with all that.

‘We’re going to see him again before Christmas and hopefully we’ll be able to get him a proper Magnum ice cream, which he loves.

‘It was so lovely to see him, and he was laughing with the guards and they all said he was a nice bloke and does no harm to anybody.

‘He was telling us about the different times in prison and the song that was at number one when we first got divorced.

‘What upset me though was the fact that his skin was as white as a sheet, it was like white snow and his eyes have gone so pale.

‘He used to have jet black eyes and had naturally tanned skin like me and that’s what really upset me.

‘It shows you what he’s been through – kept in the dark in solitary confinement for years and years. But he’s so positive and he’s behaved well for eight years now, he’s not violent now.

‘He said that he thinks if he hadn’t been in prison all this time he probably never would have brought his art out.

‘He showed us this exercise that he’s invented call the Bronson Crocodile – which is when you go in a long line of press ups one way and then the other and it was amazing.

‘He was singing his head off to us and he’s got an amazing voice.’

Bronson has spent most of his life behind bars.

He was first jailed in 1974, aged 22, when he was given seven years for armed robbery.

But bad behaviour inside gave him a reputation as a dangerous inmate, and he wasn’t release until 1987.

Bronson then spent just 69 days as a free man before being rearrested and jailed again after robbing a jewellery shop.

He was sentenced to another seven years and, bar another brief spell of freedom in 1992, has been in prison ever since. He was last denied parole in March 2023.

Irene says she hopes Bronson gets out soon – so he can live out some of his dreams.

She said: ‘When he’s released he wants to open a studio called the Salvador Studio and he wants to buy 12 old prison cell doors and create artwork over the doors and sell them as a set.

‘He’s also been offered to do a one-off bare knuckle fight and Mick was telling us about that.

‘The whole visit was just amazing, he’s so cheerful and he makes you laugh, you certainly don’t feel threatened by him.

‘We actually want to go and run the London marathon when he comes out.

‘I’m going to go as a prison warden and he’s going to go as a convict – that’s what we really want to go together.

‘He talked about taking me out for a lovely meal and asks what I want and about walking on the sand of a beach and going swimming.

‘He just lifts me up, he’s so positive you wouldn’t believe it.’

Irene said she and Bronson kept in touch via letter before they started speaking over the phone.

She said: ‘We’ve become more and more friendly over the years.

‘When he rings me we always talk about the old days. It seems like yesterday.

‘He also talks to my daughter and granddaughter on the phone and he makes them laugh. He’s very generous and he sends me a hamper every Christmas.

‘When I was with him, he was just Michael Peterson when we were married.

‘Every letter he used to write to me from prison I didn’t know if it was a good letter or bad letter at the time.

‘I just know a lot of the things that went on in prison and I know the real reasons in a lot of cases why he did what he did, and that hasn’t been disclosed.’

Although she’s not sure on their future yet, Irene says she ‘might consider’ getting re-married.

She said: ‘I’m not sure about all that yet, but we’ll see. We’re always going to be very good friends, and we did think a lot of each other.

‘You don’t know how things are going to pan out, I never thought 50 years ago that he’d still be in prison. We have a lot of respect for each other.’

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