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Broadmoor Inmates (ePub)

True Crime Tales of Life and Death in the Asylum

P&S History > By Century > 19th Century P&S History > True Crime

By Nicola Sly
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
File Size: 80.0 MB (.epub)
Pages: 240
Illustrations: 100 mono integrated illustrations
ISBN: 9781399048927
Published: 30th August 2023

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‘Broadmoor Inmates: True Crime Tales of Life and Death in the Asylum’ brings together the histories of people who died in Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum, each having committed a crime that led to them being pronounced criminally insane, necessitating their confinement and containment for their own protection, as well as that of the public. Nowadays, staff have a wide range of therapeutic tools at their disposal but historically the only treatment offered to patients was work, leisure activities and abundant fresh air. All human life is here – the addicts, the mentally deranged, the delusional, the tragic and the chronically and postnatally depressed – men and women whose acts of madness led them to be reviled and feared, but who were often as much victims of their own internal demons as were those they harmed.

As well as wife murderers James Potter and Peter Whittle, the characters within include Henry Dommett, James Senior and Mary Ann Parr, who each killed their own children and Christiana Edmunds, who poisoned several people in Brighton to divert suspicion from herself, after attempting to murder her love rival. Other vignettes include serial arsonist John Green, counterfeiter Emma Jackson and James Stevenson and Roderick Edward McClean, both of whom took exception to the accession of Her Majesty Queen Victoria to the throne, the latter attempting to assassinate her. Daniel McNaughten became so paranoid about the ‘Tory’ spies that he believed followed him constantly that he killed a civil servant in 1843, mistakenly believing his victim to be prime minister Sir Robert Peel. Such was McNaughten’s derangement that his crime spawned a new standard for the legal definition of insanity.

Generously illustrated throughout, this book will prove of interest to those with a fascination for historical true crime and the way its perpetrators were dealt with by society.

As someone who is obsessed with Genealogy, I love reading stories from the past. Especially ones that include criminals, or mental asylums, and this did not disappoint. The stories are nice and short and packed with information. I did end up coming out of some of the scenarios with sympathy, but most were just wild.

I would recommend picking this up if you have any kind of interest in criminal history, as it is incredibly interesting and well-put together.

NetGalley, Rachael Cullinan

I really enjoy true crime reads and this one did not disappoint. It was such an interesting book about prison inmates and that area always intrigues me. A good one to add to your true crime shelf.

NetGalley, Karis Clements

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The book sparked my interest when I was researching true crime story which happened on Jersey Island on August 14th 2011. Damian Rzeszowski killed six people, including his wife and small children, with two knives. He ended in Broadmoore instutution.
"Broadmoor Inmates: True Crime Tales of Life and Death in the Asylum" by Nicola Sly is a chilling exploration of the lives and crimes of individuals confined to the notorious Broadmoor Asylum. The book stands out for its meticulous research and detailed accounts, providing readers with a haunting glimpse into the dark corners of criminal history and mental health treatment.

One commendable aspect of the book is Nicola Sly's dedication to unraveling the true stories behind Broadmoor's inmates. The author's thorough research and attention to historical accuracy create a comprehensive and immersive narrative. Sly delves into the backgrounds of the inmates, offering readers a nuanced understanding of the crimes that led to their confinement in one of the world's most infamous psychiatric hospitals.

Sly's writing style is both informative and engaging, presenting the true crime tales with a balance of detail and readability. The book's organization allows for easy navigation through the various cases, each providing a glimpse into the complexities of criminal psychology and mental illness. The inclusion of historical context adds depth to the narratives, making them more than just accounts of individual crimes.

However, some readers may find the content of the book intense and unsettling due to its focus on true crime and the darker aspects of mental health history. Potential readers should be aware of the nature of the material, as it can be emotionally challenging.

In conclusion, "Broadmoor Inmates" offers a compelling and well-researched exploration of true crime tales from the infamous psychiatric institution. Nicola Sly's dedication to historical accuracy and narrative depth makes the book a valuable resource for those interested in the intersection of criminality and mental health. While the subject matter may be intense for some readers, the book succeeds in shedding light on the fascinating and often disturbing stories within the walls of Broadmoor Asylum.

NetGalley, Sylvia Gazdzinska

An excellent book from true crime shelf. The book it's a collection of stories of criminally insane inmates of the mental institution Broadmoor. The book is well-written and well -researched. It's not an easy read but highly recommended for lovers of this genre.

NetGalley, Meg Gajda

This book is a must for anyone with an interest in true crime & history. So fascinating to see how the criminally insane were treated, with stories about individual people from 1800 and up to 1956. Each one unique and detailed. I particularly liked the photos of the locations and judges involved. A great deal of effort and research must have gone into this book. Excellent!

NetGalley, Candice Benslay

4 out of 5

The author has done an excellent job of keeping things as factual as possible

Read the Full Review Here

Army Rumour Service (ARRSE)

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Eye opening! This is a great book which is very well researched but it made me worry about all the horrid things which happened years ago and those poor people that got put in prison for such mundane things.

NetGalley, Aisha Bari

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Stories detailing the many criminally insane souls who were incarcerated and largely forgotten are fairly common but Nicola Sly writes her book on those committed to Broadmoor with so much knowledge of her subject , that one cannot help feeling a small empathy with these unfortunates despite their heinous acts.

NetGalley, Carol Elizabeth Keogh

Really enjoyed reading about broadmoor inmates- found it so interesting and a nice change to read some non fiction.

It was clear that the book was very well researched and the information was written and presented clearly so that the reader can understand and relate to each case even though we are living in completely different times.

NetGalley, Sabrina Cox

The book gave you a real insight into the world of Broadmoor prison and some of the patients who previously spent time in there. It’s interesting to find out more about those patients who were not broadly showcased by the media, finding out about the deeper realms of mental health and other contributing factors such as their lifestyle and some being in poverty.

What I found quite powerful is the way the author writes the stories in a way which at times make you empathetic towards the patients, even though you are aware of the terrible crimes committed.

Was a very intriguing read and would love to read more by this author. Would recommend to all.

NetGalley, Sophie Murray

Article: Pembrokeshire author's book on Broadmoor

Western Telegraph

An intriguing look into the inhabitants of broadmoor, detailing what they did, how they were caught and what in was like inside. Quite an eye opener. Lots of short tales so a book you can pick up and put down.

NetGalley, Vicky Jones

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

"Broadmoor Inmates: True Crime Tales of Life and Death in the Asylum" by Nicola Sly is a captivating and chilling exploration of the lives and crimes of individuals who found themselves incarcerated within the notorious Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum. This meticulously researched book delves into the histories of those who, due to their criminal insanity, were confined within the walls of Broadmoor, a place meant to protect both them and the public.


Sly expertly weaves together the stories of these inmates, shedding light on a dark and often forgotten aspect of society's past. The book covers a wide range of individuals, from addicts and the mentally deranged to the tragically depressed and delusional. Each character is presented as a complex human being, grappling not only with their own inner demons but also with the consequences of their actions on society.

One of the strengths of Sly's book is her ability to humanize these individuals, despite the heinous crimes they committed. Readers will find themselves both repelled and sympathetic as they learn about the lives of infamous figures like James Potter, Peter Whittle, Henry Dommett, James Senior, Mary Ann Parr, and Christiana Edmunds. Sly goes beyond the surface of their crimes to provide insight into their backgrounds, motivations, and the societal factors that contributed to their descent into madness.

Throughout the book, Sly's writing is both engaging and compassionate, making it easy for readers to immerse themselves in these chilling true stories.

"Broadmoor Inmates" is not just a compilation of macabre tales; it is a historical exploration of how society once grappled with the concept of criminal insanity and its treatment. It offers a window into the past, where therapeutic tools were scarce, and the methods of containment were harsh and unforgiving. Nicola Sly's meticulous research and storytelling skills make this book a valuable addition to the library of true crime enthusiasts and anyone interested in the intersection of mental health, crime, and historical justice. "Broadmoor Inmates" is a haunting and thought-provoking journey into the minds of those who were once reviled and feared, now presented as complex and tragic figures of history.

NetGalley, Chelsea Littleton-Harper

I found Broadmoor Inmates to be interesting. I really enjoyed the pictures throughout of the old buildings and people. If you like history and learning about what would happen to people who were found criminally insane back in the 1800's, you would enjoy reading this book!

NetGalley, Tiffany Pierce

This book is a must for anyone with an interest in true crime & history. So fascinating to see how the criminally insane were treated, with stories about individual people from 1800 and up to 1956. Each one unique and detailed. I particularly liked the photos of the locations and judges involved. A great deal of effort and research must have gone into this book. Excellent!

NetGalley, Azeta Roberts

I liked how the book was organized and provided background information on the inmates, photographs, and illustrations. I liked learning about the evolution of psychiatry and psychology over time. I would recommend this book for any true crime lover or anyone who is interested in British/Victorian history.

NetGalley, Whitney Foster

This book gave such a good insight into Broadmoor. I felt so sad seeing what some patients went through years ago.

NetGalley, Catherine O’Connor

This book has been extremely well-researched and will really interest fans of history and true crime.

NetGalley, Natalie O'Donoghue

The ideal read for true crime readers.

NetGalley, Georgi Lvs Books

This is a fascinating history lesson on the people who stayed at Broadmoor.

NetGalley, Sheila Treacy

I found it a compelling read and found myself looking forward to reading it each night. Some of the accounts were highly intriguing. It was obviously well researched and concisely written. Overall, it was a very enjoyable and informative read

NetGalley, Maria Redmond

Broadmoor Inmates: True Crime Tales of Life and Death in the Asylum’ brings together the histories of people who died in Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum, each having committed a crime that led to them being pronounced criminally insane, necessitating their confinement and containment for their own protection, as well as that of the public. Nowadays, staff have a wide range of therapeutic tools at their disposal but historically the only treatment offered to patients was work, leisure activities and abundant fresh air. All human life is here – the addicts, the mentally deranged, the delusional, the tragic and the chronically and postnatally depressed – men and women whose acts of madness led them to be reviled and feared, but who were often as much victims of their own internal demons as were those they harmed.

This is a well-researched and illustrated book. Easy to read and, in parts, quite astonishing. A fascinating subject, well covered.

NetGalley, Steve Cripwell

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This is a collection of biographies of people who were sent to Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum. Most are from the 1800's and give a fascinating look at life then. I really enjoyed it.

NetGalley, Gloria Watson

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

What an interesting book, love the history behind it all and the people behind the bars, thoroughly enjoyed it.

NetGalley, Sue Sykes

Broadmoor is a well-known psychiatric hospital that originally opened in 1863, but until the 1950s or so, the "criminally insane" people sent there were mostly there for confinement rather than effective treatment.

I've always enjoyed true crime, but having also recently become intrigued by attitudes toward mental illness throughout history, I was excited to have this book fall into my lap. It was, however, somewhat different than I was expecting.

In this book, the author covers the stories of all the people who were admitted in Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum, as it was known then, from its founding until about the 1950s. Some of these cases are famous ones (such as Queen Victoria's various stalkers and attempted assassins), but most, some very bizarre indeed, are not known at all today. By drawing upon contemporary newspaper accounts and court documents, the author was able to lay out the progression of the case and how people at the time perceived it.

NetGalley, Pooja Peravali

A very interesting book with a look at many of the inmates, both men and women, who were sent to Broadmoor Asylum mostly due to murder charges. What I loved about this book was it didn't get bogged down with unnecessary detail. Each "story" was concise and to the point with just the right amount of information to keep it interesting. The author certainly put her time in for this book. There are plenty of pictures as well which is always a bonus for me. What I found intriguing is how quickly neighbors rushed to help, police responded and doctors arrived on scene. Never happens now. You won't be disappointed with this book.

NetGalley, Christine Cazeneuve

A masterpiece for anyone with a fascination for historical true crime and what became of the perpetrators.
Informative, sad and sometimes horrific.

NetGalley, Debra Gape

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I love historical anything and this one is in my top 10 favorite reads for the year.

NetGalley, Janalyn Prude

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

What a fascinating book. I loved it. Following the crimes of people who were sent to serve time in Broadmoor instead of a prison. From its opening and first patients through to almost modern day. Ordinary people who have committed heinous crimes, mainly against family members.
For anyone who likes history or true crime books.

NetGalley, Helen Wilkinson

I gave this book 4 stars. Great history about the life of mental illness in patients.

NetGalley, Hannah Knight

I LOVED this book.

For those who love hearing about the stories of various people, or who have the same weird obsession with insane asylums as I do, they will love this too.

The book is split into various sections, all based on one individual, which makes it easy to jump around as you want. It’s also very easy to get to, with enough information about each one to give you a good picture without bogging you done with too much detail.

NetGalley, Megan Fater

Broadmoor Inmates in an interesting book detailing the histories of many the inmates of many those who died in Broadmoor during the 19th and early to mid 20th centuries. Many of the inmates stories are very harrowing, and it is dreadful to think that if they had not been judged to be insane, many would have been sentenced to death. I was particularly interested in the chapter about Daniel McNaughton, as I knew it was his case which had changed the criminal law on insanity in England and Wales, and in many other jurisdictions, and it was fascinating to read more about the man that led to this huge change to the law. A very engaging read.

NetGalley, Michelle B.

A thoroughly insightful and detailed account of the lives of Broadmoor inmates and how they came to be incarcerated there.
The read is fascinating, if rather depressing, as the tales seem to follow a similar pattern and we see how the mentally ill were treated in past, sometimes not actually that long ago, times.
It is too easy, with hindsight, to make our own assessments about postnatal depression and other forms of mental health issues and the extreme paths these could and had to get to before any help was given, generally the murder of loved one or ones as a tragic outcome.
Similarly on seeing the durations of the incarcerations and the outcomes- always death by whatever means, generally natural causes or suicide this is sobering food for thought.
The historical aspect and detail was excellent and although difficult and very sad to read at times, I’m glad I did and feel I’ve gained a greater insight and appreciation of some very tough lives, both those afflicted and those who were left behind after woefully lacking support. A good read, highly recommended.

NetGalley, Helen Frost

I became very invested in the short and poignant stories. Nicola Sly is clearly an expert on this topic and has many pictures of asylums and hospitals, long since closed, and some of the judiciary involved, which add to the content.

NetGalley, Gail Hanlon

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

If you like books with history, despite being about crimes, you need to read this book. A well-written book and well-done research could only make a good historical book.

NetGalley, Tânia Fernandes

This is a fascinating collection of case studies which, I am sure, would otherwise be hidden away in files forever. The author offers the facts in a straightforward way, without judgement, and this makes for compelling and credible reading. It is good to see these cases memorialised and the history of the people and the institution protected.

NetGalley, Louise Gray

About Nicola Sly

A lifelong interest in crime and criminality led to Nicola Sly studying for a Master’s degree in Forensic and Legal Psychology in her forties. After this, she worked as a criminology and psychology tutor in adult education, while also writing a number of true crime books for The History Press, including several from their Grim Almanac series and a range of titles focusing on local historical murders. She has also appeared on several television documentaries pertaining to historical crime. Nicola now lives in South Wales with her husband and their two dogs and enjoys walking, gardening, cooking, swimming, reading and solving all sorts of puzzles, from sudoku to escape rooms to cryptic crosswords. This is her first book for Pen and Sword.

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