Green-eyed gunman was a talented Blackpool artist
He once painted a picture for notorious criminal Charles Bronson.
He was a talented artist whose work was displayed in a local exhibition.
And for five days in August 1974, he was the most wanted man in Britain.
The nationwide manhunt for Blackpool man, Barry Robinson, was sparked when the 33-year-old ex-Broadmoor patient kidnapped a policeman and two other men at gunpoint. He had forced PC Charles Wright to drive him away in his panda car, in Congleton, before stopping a mini-van and ordering the driver to take them to the nearby M6 motorway. He then made PC Wright stop a Morris 1000, near Birmingham, and forced the driver to take them to Rugby and into a field.
PC Wright was instructed to tie up the other hostages, and the gunman then tied up the officer and gagged all three men, before leaving in the Morris. PC Wright had only loosely tied the bindings, meaning the men were able to work their way free.
As a full-scale, nationwide manhunt ensued, Robinson’s father, John, who lived in South Shore, made an appeal through The Gazette for his son to give himself up. He had been to visit his parents at their home and left the day before the incident began.
Robinson – who had distinctive green eyes – later forced Police Constable Frank Shaw, of Derbyshire, at gunpoint, to drive him to the Fylde coast – because he wanted to hand himself in to Detective Constable Ted Hanley, of Blackpool.
DC Hanley had known Robinson since he was convicted in 1962.
He said: “I found him to be a pleasant fellow to deal with – pleasant when he was sober. He obviously had a drink problem and seemed to lapse into it.”
Robinson was sentenced to life imprisonment – for the second time in 12 years – after he admitted eight charges connected with the kidnappings.
His previous life sentence was passed in 1962, in Liverpool, under the Mental Health Act, after he admitted hitting an 82-year-old man with a brick and robbing him. He was released six years later, but found himself before Preston Crown Court.
A prison medical officer said he was “suffering from a psychopathic disorder and was subject to violence.” He had taken to drink at the age of 17.
Robinson had been persuaded by his mother to try painting to alleviate his boredom in Broadmoor. His ability astonished everybody, including experienced artists.
He painted everything from animals to landscapes and copied many well-known masterpieces.
His work, done while he was an inmate in Broadmoor, was drawn to the attention of Margaret Keen, of Potter’s Barn, Thornton, by Robinson’s mother and the venue hosted a one-man exhibition of his paintings.
In his book, Bronson 2 – More Porridge Than Goldilocks – high-profile prisoner Charles Bronson claimed to have been given a painting by Barry Robinson, which he had framed, having met him while in jail in Hull in the mid 70s.
There are online fan groups dedicated to Robinson’s art, with many people who met him describing him as “a nice chap”.
And Robinson’s name came up recently, when Rochdale resident Norma Brown contacted The Gazette regarding one of his paintings.
She has had the 1.5m by 1m oil painting of a cottage surrounded by woodland, for 44 years – after she met Robinson while on a trip to Gorton in Manchester, on June 25, 1974.
Norma was having a family day out to Belle Vue Zoo in Gorton with two of her children and her mother, who was on holiday, visiting from Jersey.
She said: “We wanted to go the zoo. And the car park was at the rear. You had to go through the amusements first and that’s when I saw what he had painted. That’s how I met him.
“I looked at the painting and said ‘that’s beautiful’ and he said ‘you can buy it off me, come back and see me when you are going home.”
“I thought I couldn’t afford it, but came back and saw him before I left, I looked in my purse to see what money I had, and I bought it. We lived on beans-on-toast for the rest of that week!
“I couldn’t believe it when I saw him on the TV six weeks later.
“He was very nice and quite a handsome chap. I was quite young, I was 29 at the time. He would have been in his early 30s.
“I paint myself a bit, so that’s why I was attracted to looking at his work.
“It was good work, he had a real talent.”
Norma is now selling the painting and would like it go to someone who will appreciated the story behind it.
“I have enjoyed looking at the painting over the years, but as my husband and I are moving from a detached house to a small apartment, for our retirement, there is no room for such a large picture.
“I really want it to go to someone who would appreciate it and we are hoping we might be able to find it a good home.”
Anyone interested in buying the painting can email [email protected]