Charles Bronson’s ex-wife: when was he married to Paula Williamson, who did she play in Coronation Street?

Bronson is known as one of the most notorious criminals in British history, but he has had three marriages and one son

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He’s one of the most notorious criminals in Britain, but Charles Bronson has still had three marriages - with two ceremonies being performed in prison as he is serving a life sentence.

Bronson, who is now 70-years-old, was first sent to prison for armed robbery in 1974, but he soon gained a reputation as one of the UK’s most violent criminals due to his behaviour towards other inmates and prison guards. His outbursts led to his prison sentence being extended, and even when he was released in 1987 he was back behind bars just a few weeks later after being convicted of another armed robbery.

Bronson, who is now legally called Charles Salvador, was in and out of prison during the late 1980s and early 1990s for various crimes but found himself subject to a life sentence in the late 1990s due to his continued extreme violent actions, including taking fellow inmates and a prison art teacher hostage. Almost 50 years after he first entered a prison cell, Bronson was granted a parole board hearing which could have seen him released, but on 30 March the decision was made that he will stay in prison.

We take a look at the relationships Bronson has had over the years, and the women who have been able to see past his criminal convictions.

How many times has Charles Bronson been married?

Bronson has been married three times in total. His first marriage came before his first prison sentence, though at the time he’d already been handed a suspended sentence for his part in a smash and grab raid. His first wife was called Irene Kelsey. The pair met in 1971, when Bronson was still going by his birth name of Michael Peterson. They married a year later at Chester Register Office, but divorced after five years. Kelsey, who has since remarried and is now called Irene Dunroe, told Pick Me Up Magazine in 2007 that she sent divorce papers to Bronson for him to sign in prison after he kept having his sentence extended due to his violent actions. She said she wrote “’I want a divorce, I can’t wait my whole life for you”.

Bronson’s second marriage came some time later, in 2001. This time, his bride was Fatema Saira Rehman, a Bangladeshi-born divorcee who had seen articles about him in newspapers and had begun writing to him. Rehman visited her soon-to-be husband ten times in HMP Woodhill, a category A male prison in Milton Keynes where he was being held at the time, before they tied the knot. Bronson even converted to his new wife’s religion, Islam, and asked to be called Charles Ali Ahmed although he never officially changed his name. The marriage lasted four years and when it ended Bronson gave up his Islamic faith.

His last marriage came in 2017, three years after Bronson had legally changed his name to Charles Salvador after the artist Salvador Dalí. He married soap actress Paula Williamson, who also grew close to him after writing him letters. He is said to have proposed over the phone on Valentine’s Day 2017 by singing Frank Sinatra’s My Way to her. They married exactly nine months later on 14 November 2017, at HMP Wakefield, West Yorkshire, where he had then been moved to. Less than a year later, however, Bronson wrote to his then wife asking for a divorce because photos of her with other men on holiday, including one of a man with his face in her cleavage, had been printed in newspapers. The marriage was annulled in June 2019 due to the fact the pair had never consummated their union.

Coronation Street actress Paula Williamson (pictured left on Loose Women in 2017) married prisoner Charles Bronson (pictured right in 1992). Credit: Loose Women/ITV (Williamson) and PA (Bronson)Coronation Street actress Paula Williamson (pictured left on Loose Women in 2017) married prisoner Charles Bronson (pictured right in 1992). Credit: Loose Women/ITV (Williamson) and PA (Bronson)
Coronation Street actress Paula Williamson (pictured left on Loose Women in 2017) married prisoner Charles Bronson (pictured right in 1992). Credit: Loose Women/ITV (Williamson) and PA (Bronson)

In July 2019, The Sun reported that Bronson was supposedly looking to make a pensioner called Joan his fourth wife after being released from jail.

Who was Paula Williamson?

Paula Williamson was a television actress, and had appeared in supporting roles in some of the UK’s most well-known soaps during her career. She appeared as an unnamed nurse in ITV soap Coronation Street three times between 2008 and 2012. She also played a doctor in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks in 2012. She also played the role of Kirsty Williams in TV drama Appropriate Adult in 2011, which dramatised how serial killer Fred and Rose West were brought to justice.

She was born on 19 August 1980, and graduated from the Manchester Metropolitan University School of Theatre in 2005. She died suddenly at her house in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, on 29 July 2019. She was 38-years-old. At an inquest in to her death in 2021, the coroner concluded that Williamson’s death had been drug-related, but that she had not intended to take her life. Coroner Emma Serrano said: "In the lead up to her passing away she wasn’t expressing any suicidal thoughts and there was no behaviour to suggest she wasn’t happy”. She added: "Paula had been taking substances. She did not realise the consequence of those substances all working together would cause her to pass away."

Williamson gave multiple TV interviews about her relationship with Bronson at the time. In one interview on ITV talk show Loose Women in October 2017 she said her then fiancé was a different man to the criminal people know about. “Charles Bronson was a very, very violent offender. Charles Salvador is the man that I am marrying and he has not committed a violent offence at all. I would not be marrying Charles Bronson”. She also said that her husband, whom she referred as Charlie, had rehabilitated himself and that he made her happy. Williamson also campaigned for her then husband’s release during her time with him, and told Loose Women presenters that it was a case of “when” he was released and not “if”.

Coronation Street actress Paula Williamson appearing on ITV talk show Loose Women in 2017 to discuss her upcoming marriage to prisoner Charles Bronson. Photo by ITV/Loose Women.Coronation Street actress Paula Williamson appearing on ITV talk show Loose Women in 2017 to discuss her upcoming marriage to prisoner Charles Bronson. Photo by ITV/Loose Women.
Coronation Street actress Paula Williamson appearing on ITV talk show Loose Women in 2017 to discuss her upcoming marriage to prisoner Charles Bronson. Photo by ITV/Loose Women.

In July 2018, she returned to Loose Women and tearfully said that Bronson had asked for a divorce because of the aforementioned photographs. She said in the letter he wrote “he’s said I’ve humiliated him, he’s a man of great pride, and I’ve humiliated him.” She added: “And I have, I’ve humiliated myself as well”. She also then revealed that Bronson had asked her to speak to the media to say he was a nonviolent person, but he had since re-offended. She admitted she was questioning her choice to marry him and said she ignored concerns from her mother and others when she decided to marry him. Asked by the hosts if she wanted to reconcile with Bronson, she said: “No, it’s done. I ain’t going back now.”

In a right of reply statement from Bronson, he accused Williamson of having a drink and prescription drug problem, which he said made her do “crazy things”. He added: “I absolutely abhor alcohol and drugs. She needs to get help, I’ll miss her, but she needs to sort herself out or she will be dead in two years”. Williamson admitted to the Loose Women presenters that she had been struggling with an alcohol and prescription drug problem for years. She ended the interview by vowing to stop using these substances.

Does Charles Bronson have children?

Yes, Charles Bronson does have children. He shares son Michael Jonathan Peterson with first wife Irene. He was born just a few months after the couple’s wedding in 1972. Dunroe revealed in her 2007 Pick Me Up interview that her son learned who his father was at the age of 15 after a classmate commented on his resemblance to the infamous criminal.

In March 2000, at the age of 29, Peterson visited his father in prison for the first time. Bronson is said to have cried and hugged his son during that visit, which was the first time he had seen him since he was a toddler. The pair kept in touch for weeks, even supposedly planning to run a restaurant together after Bronson’s supposed release, but the contact did not last long. There is some suggestion that this is because of his marriage to Rehman. After the marriage ended, Bronson wrote to his son again in 2005 and asked him to visit him again. Peterson did go and see him again at the time, as reported by his mother in Pick Me Up, but it is not known if father and son are still in contact now. Peterson has never spoken to the media directly and has kept away from the spotlight.

Bronson was also alleged to have another son, newspaper photographer George Bamby, but supporters of Bronson had labelled Bamby a fraud. It seems they were correct to have their doubts, as Bamby has now admitted that Bronson is not his father at all - and the claim was a publicity student.

Speaking to TalkTV about Bronson losing his bid for parole, he said: "Me and Charlie together made up the story that he was my dad. Charles Bronson is not my father. I am a PR agent. I’m a marketing person, and I’m the UK’s number one paparazzi. I’ve not told anybody this for six years and it’s been an absolute bane of my life."

He added: “Me and Charlie, for the last six years, have made loads of money, we’ve had loads of fun, we’ve created loads of stories, we’ve done loads of ridiculous things, we’ve manipulated the media, we’ve manipulated the prison service. I got into the maximum security services in four different prisons as a journalist.

He also admitted that not even his close family knew the truth. He said: “It’s taken a real toll on my life, I didn’t even tell my wife, I didn’t even tell my family, I’ve not even told my friends. This is the first time now that any of my family and friends are going to hear about it. My wife is sat here now and she looks horrified." But, he insisted he has no regrets about his lie and added that the money that had been made as a result of it were split between him and Bronson’s consultant as people serving time in prison are not legally allowed to make money.

He told shocked host Vanessa Feltz that he "respected" the decision of the parole board, and also said that his relationship with Bronson is over. He said: "I'm never having any dealings with him again whatsoever in my life. I wish him the best of luck. He's a really, really lovely guy."

It was back in January 2018 that Bamby went on ITV talk show This Morning to discuss finding out he was supposedly Bronson’s long-lost son. He said Bronson had first made contact with him via Williamson after enjoying watching him in a Channel 4 documentary about paparazzi which aired in 2017. He said Bronson sent him some artwork. He said when he went to visit Bronson he gave him two hairs from his moustache and asked Bamby to get them DNA tested as he believed he may be his father.

Bamby, who by then had changed his name to George Bamby-Salvador in tribute to his alleged father, said he had two DNA tests done - one with their hairs he was given and another saliva test and it came back “99.98% positive” that Bronson is his biological father.  He said: “It’s not been a disappointment to me whatsoever. I’m very proud of Charlie. He’s been through so much. He has been evil, he knows he’s done a lot of bad things, but the thing is he’s my dad.” He also campaigned for Bronson’s release, condemning the parole board saying “they are not worth the paper they are written on” and questioning why Bronson has not been released when he has “never killed anyone, never hurt a woman or a child, never done anything violent to anyone on the outside world."

In the TalkTV interview on March 30, Bamby also admitted that he had taken the fake DNA test result from the internet.

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