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Dhaka Tribune

The Bangladeshi woman who married Britain’s most violent convict

Charles Bronson is known in the British media as the 'most violent prisoner in Britain'

Update : 23 Sep 2018, 03:31 PM

She was a divorced single mother from Bangladesh who moved to the UK after being married against her will. Saira Rehman was struggling to cope after escaping to a women's refuge from her abusive husband.

He was, and still is, the most notorious man ever to be held in a British prison. Charles Bronson has been referred to in the British press as the "most violent prisoner in Britain" and "Britain's most notorious prisoner." He was the subject of the 2008 film titled “Bronson” starring Tom Hardy, a biopic based loosely around his life.

By 2001, he had been moved around prisons 150 times for lashing out at prison guards, taking hostages and attacking other convicts. He has spent extended periods detained in high-security psychiatric hospitals as well.

Bronson is one of the highest-profile criminals in Britain and has been featured in books, interviews, and studies in prison reform and treatment. 

So, how did a petite Bangladeshi divorcee end up married to Britain's most notorious prisoner?

Who is Saira?

Fatema Saira Rehman, born Saira Ali Ahmed, moved to England without a word of English from her home in Habiganj, Bangladesh after being married against her will at 18 (or so claimed because underage marriage remains a frequent occurrence in the country) to a man who lived in Birmingham. She met him for the first time at the wedding ceremony. 

He used to regularly beat her because her dowry was not enough and because she could not cook. He threw her down the stairs when she was eight months pregnant with their daughter Sami.

Entirely alone, she gave birth after three days of labour, at Gateshead's Queen Elizabeth Hospital in January 1991. With the help of the hospital translator, her only friendly contact, she escaped to a woman's refuge and started divorce proceedings.

Saira moved to a council flat, learned English, and enrolled at college to study computer skills and women's studies. She found a job as a counsellor at a women's refuge centre. She even started dating a policeman.

Boy meets girl, or vice versa

Saira fell for Bronson when she saw his photograph in a newspaper in December 1998. 

"When I first saw his picture I just couldn't get him out of my mind," she told the Manchester Evening News. 

“It’s just one of those things you really can't explain in words. I just can't put my finger on it. My feelings for him were very strong and I had to pursue them and see where it went."

Despite that initial flush of feelings, Saira kept a lid on it for three years. Then in 2001 their fledgling relationship began, initially by letter and then by telephone.

"I thought he probably gets loads of letter from women everyday and would throw mine away. But after a few weeks I was surprised to see he wrote back. In his letter he asked many friendly questions wanting to know more about me and my daughter.

"He said there was something about me that he couldn’t forget. We sent each other a couple of letters and then I sent him a picture of me just to let him see who the person behind the letters looked like."

Saira met Bronson for the first time on March 4, 2001 at Woodhill Prison.

Three months and ten visits later, they married at Milton Keynes prison (we told you he was constantly getting moved around!). Saira was 31 and Bronson was 48 years old when they married. The wedding was a small civil ceremony. Saira wore a traditional red and gold lehenga with her 10-year-old daughter as a bridesmaid, according to the Manchester Evening News. 

Fade to black

Saira faced a fair amount of lashing from the Asian communities in the UK. She was sacked from her job at the women's refuge centre due to her scandalous marriage. 

She wrote a book titled “Breaking Free: The true story of a survivor,” detailing how she had found peace through her love for him. 

They seemed happy for a while, Saira spent a lot of time giving interviews to the local and international media, and campaigning for Bronson’s release. Meanwhile, Bronson converted to Islam. Saira’s daughter Sami even started calling Bronson dad.

However, in 2005, for reasons still obscure, they divorced. Little to nothing can be found about who filed for the divorce, or even why. 

Bronson has remarried and renounced Islam since.

Fatema Saira Rehman’s current whereabouts are unknown; one can guess she has had enough attention from the media thanks to her four years of marriage to the most violent prisoner in Britain. Maybe all she wants now is to be left in peace.

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