When Claire Maudsley was growing up she knew her Uncle Bob was in prison, but she never really knew why.
He used to send her birthday cards calling her his “little princess”, which she always thought was weird as she didn’t know him.
But as she grew up she discovered more about the case, and learnt that her dad’s brother, Maudsley, is actually Britain’s most notorious serial killer.
He has been in solitary confinement in a glass cell since 1979, making him Britain’s longest serving prisoner, having been caged for 47 years for the murder of four men in the 1970s.
Maudsley was locked up for the murder of John Farrell, age 30, in March 1974.
Whilst serving a life sentence, he then embarked on a sickening wave of vigilante violence murdering three men, earning himself the nickname ‘Hannibal the Cannibal’.
He killed David Francis, a convicted child molester, Salney Darwood, who was serving life for the manslaughter of his wife Blanche and William Roberts, who was serving seven years for sexual assault of a seven-year-old girl.
And his niece Claire, from Liverpool, believes the connection to her sick uncle has ruined her love life as she’s had a succession of boyfriends attracted to evil.
The 39-year-old thinks she attracts the wrong sort of partner and says their fascination with her murderous uncle has led to a long line of difficult and abusive relationships.
She’s spoken out now after her obsessed ex-boyfriend, Ronnie Whitby, was sentenced to 18 months in prison for a sickening assault in a hotel room.
He accused her of sleeping with other guests at the hotel and battered her in a booze filled rage leaving her with a broken jaw and two black eyes.
Terrified Claire told how her jealous ex, who had previously forced her to have his own name tattooed on her private parts, held her in the locked hotel room fearing for her life.
But she eventually managed to persuade Whitby to let her go to a shop at Lime Street Station in Liverpool city centre, where she locked herself in a toilet before running off and alerting police.
Claire said: “I just seem to attract the worst sort of psychos. I often wonder if it is something to do with my Uncle Bob.
“Ronnie Whitby seemed genuinely interested in my uncle’s case, at first. After what’s happened, I realise he was a sicko, attracted to violence and crime.”
Known as ‘Hannibal the Cannibal,’ Robert Maudsley, who was born and grew up in Liverpool, was alleged to have eaten part of the brain of one of his victims in prison, earning himself a reputation as one of Britain’s most dangerous criminals.
Claire said: “When I mention my uncle it seems to get people going. It seems Ronnie Whitby was no different.
“Bob is my dad Billy’s older brother. Growing up, I knew he was in prison, but I didn’t know what for. It was over the years as people began to ask me about him that it dawned on me what he was and what happened.
“I was told my Nan Jean and Grandad George, never treated him the same as the rest of their 12 kids. He was different.
“Bob was always in scrapes and was a real wild character.
“He ran off to London and became tangled up in male prostitution. It was then that he murdered his first victim, John Farrell.
“I must admit I became fascinated with Uncle Bob, myself, who wouldn’t be? It’s not everyone who has a serial killer in the family.”
Claire told how she learned the full truth about Maudsley as the internet came into everyday use.
She added: “I was gobsmacked when I read the details about him.
“My dad would always say that the stories about Bob were exaggerated. But even if they were, the facts are he was a rent boy who murdered a man in London then killed three others whilst in prison and has been solitary confinement since 1979.
“I was two years old when he was placed into solitary. He hasn’t had proper human contact for the whole of my life.
“When I was little, he used to send me birthday cards and he called me his ‘Little Princess’. I thought was odd that this man I’d never met and didn’t know would think of me as princess.”
Claire told how the shadow of her serial killer uncle has hovered over her and it seemed to draw in Whitby, who she met in 2017.
“Ronnie Whitby was nice when I first met him. Really kind and with a great sense of humour,” she explains.
“He was very much a social justice warrior and hated any sort of prejudice. I thought he was different.
“We had a lot of laughs together and he really seemed to care. But then he started getting jealous. He stopped me from seeing my friends and controlled everything that I did.
“He even made me have his name tattooed on my private parts. He said he owned me.
“When we went out, I had to look at the ground so that other men didn’t see me. I was starting to think of a way out of the relationship.
“But then he booked a hotel room. I thought we were going to have a few nights out and some fun. But as soon as we got there, he locked the door and refused to let me leave.
“He had a wild look in his eyes, and I got really scared. I thought he was going to kill me.”
Liverpool Crown Court heard how Whitby went on the run and wasn’t arrested until over a month later.
Whitby failed to attend court in December and a warrant was made for his arrest, before he was caught in the Midlands in January.
He appeared in court in February this year via video link from HMP Preston after admitting assault causing actual bodily harm and failing to surrender.
The court heard Whitby has convictions dating back to 2003, including robbery and assault when he was a juvenile.
He was sent to a young offenders institution for assault causing actual bodily harm in 2010 and convicted of assaults in 2012 and 2014.
Whitby was convicted of harassment and battery both in 2015 and again in 2016, including an attack on an ex-partner.
In June 2016 he was jailed for affray, after he hurled eggs and water bottles at neo-Nazis hiding in Liverpool Lime Street Station’s left luggage room during a ‘White Man March’.
The court heard he was also convicted of two counts of battery in June 2019, which were also against Miss Mawdsley.
Cheryl Mottram, defending, said Whitby accepted he would be sent to prison and his behaviour to his victim was “completely unacceptable”.
She said: “As your honour may have anticipated alcohol played its part in relation to this particular offence, that combined with the defendant’s mental health difficulties and the toxicity of the relationship that he had with Miss Mawdsley all played its role.”
Ms Mottram said afterwards Whitby tried to “put some distance between himself and Miss Mawdsley”, moved to Coventry and got a job as a handyman.
She said: “He has struggled for many years with his mental health, He has paranoid schizophrenia, he suffers with ADHD and PTSD, brought on by witnessing his father’s murder some years ago.”
Ms Mottram said her client also had heart problems, requiring medication, which had made his time in custody difficult especially during the pandemic.
Judge Robert Trevor-Jones said Whitby and Miss Mawdsley had been staying in the hotel for some time when he launched the “sustained assault”.
He said: “It seems the motivation for the assault was that you in drink suspected her of having seen some other man, it’s understood within the hotel.”
The judge said photos of the injuries revealed “very unpleasant bruising” to his victims’ eyes, nose and jaw.
He said the attack was aggravated by Whitby’s “unenviable record” including past assaults on the same victim, adding: “There is a history here of violence by you towards her.”
Whitby held his head in his hands as the judge jailed him for 18 months, including one month for failing to surrender.
Judge Trevor-Jones also imposed a two-year restraining order.