Strangeways’ Most Notorious Inmates

HM Prison Manchester, commonly known as Strangeways, is one of Manchester’s most famous landmarks.

By Manchester's Finest | 26 May 2020

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Since its opening on the 25th June 1868, it has been the home of famous executions, scandalous prison riots and even more harrowing, some of Britain’s deadliest criminals.

It may stand – somewhat peacefully – near the heart of our beloved city but Strangeways prison has caged some notorious inmates…

Harold Shipman

Believed to have killed between 215 and 260 people, Dr. Harold Shipman is without a doubt Britain’s most prolific serial killer.

‘Doctor Death’ often targeted elderly people, injecting his patients with lethal doses of diamorphine over a 23-year killing spree that is still to this day, one of the worst cases of mass murder ever documented.

After nearly 30 years of senseless murders and one failed investigation against him, Shipman was eventually arrested on the 7th September 1998 and held at Strangeways whilst awaiting trial.

During this time, his cell mate Tony Fleming, claimed that Shipman once came close to confessing in a letter, stating that ‘he felt responsible for the deaths of 58 of [his] patients’, though he never described these events as murder.

His trial began at Preston Crown Court in 1999 and it took 4 months to find him guilty of 15 charges of murder and one of forgery. Sentenced to 15 life sentences and a four-year sentence for forgery he was sent to Durham Prison and later transferred to Wakefield Prison in 2003. A year later he committed suicide in his cell, found on the eve of his 58th birthday.


Ian Brown

In the summer of 1998, after a flight back from a show in Paris, Stone Roses front man Ian Brown was arrested and later sentenced for 4 months in Strangeways for an ‘air rage’ incident.

The official charge was for using threatening behaviour towards a British Airways’ stewardess and captain, a charge he later denied, with band mate Aziz Ibrahim saying that Brown was “just being cheeky”.

His experiences in the prison are well documented, not just in his interviews with the press, but also his songs. Inside he managed to pen the lyrics for “Free My Way”, “So Many Soldiers”, and “Set My Baby Free”.

He didn’t really encounter much trouble from fellow prisoners, something he feared when he arrived. The fears were quickly alleviated when he was approached by a rather large Somalian bloke who told him he’d given him some tickets for Spike Island in 1990 so “owed him one”. Luckily his protection was not needed, with fellow prisoners quickly adopting Brown as one of their own, mainly due to his treatment from prison officers.

After 2 months he was released on parole and insists that the experience left him in the best shape of his life, and with an even stronger dislike for people in positions of authority. It was the ‘screws’ who attempted to illicit reactions from him and used various methods of intimidation that Brown insisted was unjust.

While in prison he also received a letter (and a box of Malteasers) from former Roses guitarist John Squire, with whom he hadn’t spoken to for 2 years. A sure-fire foundation for the Stone Roses reunion that was to come later.


Mark Bridger

In October 2012, five-year-old April Sue-Lyn Jones disappeared after being sighted climbing into a vehicle near her home in Machynlleth, Powys in Wales.

Her story went national and following a public appeal by the Prime minster himself, David Cameron, the entire country was frantic to reunite this poor little girl with her family. However, she was never seen again.

The morning after she went missing, Police arrested local man Mark Bridger, 46, who matched the description of the person who drove the Land Rover Discovery that April was seeing entering.

With no sign of April and no body, Bridger was charged with child abduction, murder and attempting to pervert the course of justice on 6th October and was remanded at Stangeways.

When his trial began on the 29th April 2013, Bridger was pleading not guilty, but as the DNA evidence mounted up, and after confessing to a prison chaplain at Strangeways that he was ‘probably responsible’ for her death, he was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment at Wakefield Prison with the recommendation that he should never be released.


Emily Davison

Suffragette sentenced to two month’s hard labour in Strangeways in 1909, Emily was arrested after disrupting a meeting with Chancellor David Lloyd George (who would later become Prime Minister from 1916 – 1922), and later for throwing rocks at the windows of a political meeting.

She was arrested with fellow suffragettes Mary Leigh and Alice Paul, but they still weren’t going to go quietly. She decided to go on hunger strike at the prison and was subsequently released after 5 and a half days. During this time, it’s said she lost 21 lbs.

She once again was arrested just 2 months later for throwing stones and was sent to Strangeways once more, where she of course went on hunger strike. This time she was released after only 2 and a half days and later wrote to the Manchester Guardian that it “was meant as a warning to the general public of the personal risk they run in future if they go to Cabinet Ministers’ meetings anywhere”

Davison later died in 1913 after running onto the course at the Epsom Derby with a suffragette flag and tragically getting kicked in the head by a horse.



Dale Cregan

One-eyed murderer and drug dealer, Dale Cregan, is still to this day one of Manchester’s most notorious killers.

Cregan’s criminal career started at a very young age when he began dealing cannabis, and by the age of 22, he had progressed to cocaine and although the exact circumstances are unknown, is thought to have had his left eye carved out; perhaps the repercussions of his illegal activities.

In May 2012, he shot dead 23-year-old Mark Short in the Cotton Tree Pub in Droylsden and attempted to kill three other men. Several months later in August, he violently murdered Short’s father, Mark, shooting him nine times and throwing a hand grenade onto him.

He made national headlines in 2012 when he lured two female police officers to his property in Hattersley and ambushed them with gun fire and a grenade. Tragically, both women died after this seemingly unprovoked attack.

Following these infamous murders, Cregan handed himself into the local police station where he was charged with all four murders. Detained at Strangeways during his trial, Dale Cregan was found guilty of four murders and three attempted murders on the 13th June 2013 and sentenced to life imprisonment.


David Dickinson

Antiques expert and perma-tanned celebrity David Dickinson surprisingly served 3 years of a 4 year sentence inside, the majority of it at Strangeways prison.

Just 19 at the time, he was arrested and charged for fraudulent trading with a mail-order company, buying goods on credit, selling them at a slight loss and then recycling the money back into his business to gain a better credit rating.

When police finally caught up with him and his co-conspirators, he was quickly arrested and he says “the fear was horrendous.”

Life in one of Britain’s toughest jails was one of the most difficult experiences of his life but something he learned to “take on the chin and accept it was [his] own fault.”


Paul Taylor

Notorious for being one of the main ringleaders of the huge 25-day Strangeways riot in 1990 where prisoners famously ended up on the roof of the prison. It’s still the longest prison riot in British history and one prisoner was killed alongside 147 prison officers who were injured.

The whole series of events began after a disturbance in the prison chapel, a confrontation that most likely was planned by Taylor and a close set of cohort’s days before.

Taylor took the microphone from the church preacher and addressed his fellow inmates. The whole confrontation ended with them barricading themselves in the chapel and attempting to gain access to the roof.

After a well-publicised 25 days, it all came to an end and in the aftermath Paul Taylor (and Alan Lord) were sentenced as ringleaders of the disturbance, as well as being charged with the murder of Derek White, a prisoner on remand who later died of injuries sustained during the riot.

Strangeways was re-built and refurbished at a cost of £55 million and was officially re-opened as HMP Prison Manchester in 1994 directly as a result of the riots.


Ian Brady

A child murderer, sadist and paedophile – Ian Brady is one half of Britain’s most infamous killing duo – The Moors Murderers.

As a teenager, he was in and out of juvenile court, eventually moving to Manchester where he was caught smuggling a sack full of lead seals out of a market. At the premature age of 17, he was sent to Strangeways for three months as a minor; though his terrifying experience did not deter him from a life of crime.

Years later in 1961, Brady spoke to his colleague, 18-year-old Myra Hindley, for the first time. Innocent and romantic on the surface, their fiery union was not all it seemed, for hiding under the surface was a much darker agenda.

Between July 1963 and October 1965, the pair went on to murder five innocent children, burying four of the bodies on Saddleworth Moor, north-east of Manchester.

Following his trial which began on the 19th April 1966, Ian Brady was found guilty of three murders on the 6th May and was sentenced to life imprisonment.