A former FHM model who struck up an “affair” with Charles Bronson stands alongside Britain’s “most violent prisoner” during his bid for freedom this week.
Gemma Fernandez, who first wrote to Bronson after seeing Tom Hardy play him in a 2008 film about his life, attended public parole hearings this week where she asked to be released after 48 years behind bars.
They maintained their ‘relationship’ through letters and video calls, called ‘purple visits’, and were even allowed a visit to meet him face-to-face at HMP Woodhill after Covid restrictions were eased in 2021.
But they broke up just a few months later, with Bronson writing from prison: ‘I’m not with Gemma anymore. We separated. Romance and prison don’t mix. They are two different worlds. I believe in setting the ones you love free.
Gemma Fernandez, who first wrote to Bronson after seeing Tom Hardy play him in a 2008 film about his life, attended this week’s public parole hearings.
The inmate shown via video link from HMP Woodhill during his hearing on Monday
Despite this, she has remained an enthusiastic supporter, mingling with the crowd outside the Royal Courts of Justice wearing a T-shirt bearing the words ‘Free Charles Salvador’.
She said mirror: ‘I have been advised not to actually say anything. I think she has done very well and it is time for her to come out.
I really support it.
Bronson, who has changed his name to Salvador, was first jailed for armed robbery in 1974, but during his time in prison he took hostages in 10 prison sieges, attacked at least 20 prison officers and caused £500,000 in damage. sterling in rooftop protests.
But at parole hearings this week he insisted he is now a “man of peace”, having asked to be released for the sake of his 95-year-old mother, whom he called “the duchess”.
The couple split several years ago, and Bronson wrote from prison: ‘I’m not with Gemma anymore. We’ve split up. Romance and prison don’t mix. They’re two different worlds.’
Despite this, she has remained an enthusiastic supporter, mingling with the crowd outside the Royal Courts of Justice wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the words ‘Free Charles Salvador’.
The inmate will have another hearing this week before being informed of his fate in the coming weeks.
Long criminal history of ‘Britain’s most violent prisoner’
1974: Bronson’s first conviction at age 22. He was jailed for seven years for robbery, aggravated robbery, assault with intent to rob, and possession of a firearm.
He was convicted of numerous assaults behind bars in 1975, 1978, and 1985, which led to his sentence being extended.
1987: He was released from prison at the age of 34.
1988: After 69 days he was back in prison, sentenced to seven years for robbery at a jewelry store.
1992: He was released, but weeks later he was imprisoned for eight years for attempted robbery.
He has been behind bars ever since for violent crimes committed while in custody.
1994: He was given seven years for false imprisonment and blackmail, then in 1997 he took hostage a deputy prison warden, staff and three inmates for which he received five years.
1999: He took an art teacher hostage for three days and was sentenced to life in prison with a minimum term of three years which expired in 2003.
2014: He was also sentenced to three years for assaulting the director of a prison.
Ms Fernandez, who is in her 30s, previously spoke about visiting to see ‘gentleman’ Bronson on Steve Wraith’s true crime YouTube channel.
She said: ‘It was her first visit in two years, it was a great, great day. It was lovely to watch. I gave him a massive hug. She hasn’t had a hug in two years, so that was really, really nice. He was all excited, he took my jacket off, he’s a gentleman.
“She was supposed to sit in a chair six feet away, but apparently she walked into the room before I got there and said, ‘No way, I’m not going to have that,’ and dragged a chair across the room. “. It was incredible. I thought it was quite a comfortable and welcoming environment.
The former model claimed that she had never been in a prison before visiting Bronson.
It was after seeing Tom Hardy play him in 2008 that he decided to contact him.
She added: ‘Years ago I wanted to write to him after seeing the movie and never really did.
“But with the lockdown going on and everyone suffering with their mental health, I thought, ‘He’s been banged up for 46 years, I need to write.’
He is a reformed character. He cares about people. He is such a nice guy.
The former model also gushed about him packing away his ‘two mince pies from the canteen’ along with a thermos of hot water and two tea bags as he anxiously awaited her arrival.
Ms. Fernandez said: ‘Charlie is in a different unit, so they separated me from everyone else and escorted me to another building.
‘I saw it, and I was relieved to see it. It was my first time visiting a prison and he told me, “Gem, it’s like an airport, except instead of a plane at the end, I’ll be there.”
“He was standing at the window with his mustache and glasses waiting anxiously, so it was really cool.”
Ms Fernandez, who is in her 30s, previously spoke about her visit to see ‘gentleman’ Bronson on Steve Wraith’s true crime YouTube channel.
Fernández has described Bronson as a ‘reformed character’
“There was so much energy in the room and we were both so excited, there was a great build up.”
“The door opened and I immediately gave him a big hug. It was very good. He had arranged a low table and two chairs.
On the table was a thermos of hot water with two tea bags and the two mince pies she had saved from the canteen. It was amazing to watch, it was really surreal. We had video calls and talked the whole time, so it was surreal.
“We were very lucky to receive that visit. He has been overwhelmed with the support and messages. Time is precious, he has a life: he deserves to live life as a free man.
‘He really just wants to have fish and chips on the beach. There are a lot of people supporting Charlie and it shows.’
Ms. Fernández now runs the petition website called Free Charlie Official and said that “every day she reads him the emails” she receives in support of Bronson and those campaigning for his release.
Bronson played by Tom Hardy in a 2008 film