Charles Mason
© Agence France-Presse
Serial killer Charles Mason, now 77, is to face a new parole hearing. He is serving life for the killings of nine people, including actress Sharon Tate in 1969.

He may be old, grey and dishevelled, but the swastika tattoo on his forehead still tells a chilling story.

A new photograph has emerged of guru-psychopath Charles Manson, who has been in prison for more than 40 years for his role in a series of gruesome murders and is due for a new parole hearing.

The photo - dated June 2011 and released by California penitentiary authorities - shows Manson, 77, with grey hair and a full beard, and with the swastika tattoo emblazoned on his forehead.

The photo was released with Manson due for a regular parole hearing next Wednesday.

"The last time he had a parole hearing, it was in May of 2007, and he received a five-year denial," said Terry Thornton of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

"This is just his next regularly scheduled parole hearing. It's automatic."

One of the nation's most notorious inmates, Manson is incarcerated at Corcoran state prison, 300 kilometres northwest of Los Angeles. In 2007, he was denied parole for the 11th time.

At the time, the board that reviewed his request for parole said he continued to pose a danger to others and could still do harm to whoever comes in contact with him.

Manson headed an apocalyptic cult and hatched a plot to commit murders in upscale, mostly white neighborhoods of Los Angeles and then blame the crimes on African-Americans, in hopes of sparking a race war.

He was sentenced to death with four of his disciples for having led an August 1969 killing of seven people, including Sharon Tate, the wife of filmmaker Roman Polanski. Tate was eight and a half months pregnant.

Death sentences that were handed down for crimes accompanied by acts of barbarism were commuted to life in prison after executions were halted by California in 1972.

One of Manson's disciples, Leslie Van Houten - convicted in the 1969 killings of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca in their Los Angeles home - was denied parole in 2010.

Another follower, Susan Atkins, died of cancer in prison in 2009. She was convicted of murdering seven people.

Manson "family" member Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme was released from prison in 2009 after serving 34 years for the attempted assassination of US president Gerald Ford. She did not participate in the 1969 killings.