Ronnie Biggs Defiant At Train Robber's Funeral

Ronnie Biggs had a defiant message for the press at the funeral of fellow great train robber Bruce Reynolds, as he flipped the "V" sign to photographers.

Biggs, 83, who was freed four years ago after claims he was close to death due to a series of strokes, was among 200 people who paid tribute to his late friend.

Reynolds, who masterminded the 1963 robbery, died just months before the 50th anniversary of the famous heist, hailed as one of the most audacious crimes of the 20th century.

The gang targeted a Glasgow to London mail train and escaped with a then record haul of £2.6m, the equivalent of £40m today.

The train driver Jack Mills was struck with an iron bar and never worked again.

Reynolds died in his sleep on February 28 after a period of ill health and has been laid to rest at a private service at St Bartholomew The Great, a church in the City of London.

Biggs described him as a "good man".

In a tribute read on his behalf, Biggs said: "Bruce was a true friend, a great friend. A friend through the good and the bad times, and we had many of both.

"He was a good friend to me and my family. My thoughts are with Nick, his son.

"It was Bruce who set me off on an adventure that was to change my life, and it was typical of Bruce that he was there at the end to help me back from Brazil to Britain.

"I am proud to have had Bruce Richard Reynolds as a friend. He was a good man. I miss him already."

A number of other men with criminal backgrounds attended the funeral, including Freddie Foreman, Dave Courtney and Chris Lambrianou.

An emotional Nick Reynolds described his father as his best friend and greatest inspiration.

"He was a romantic, a true adventurer, a journeyman who chose a lunatic path and paid the price," he said.

"He was an artist at heart and although he referred to the train robbery as his Sistine Chapel, his greatest triumph was in reassessing himself and changing his attitude about what is important in life."

Mr Reynolds said his father's death was "a terrible shock", but he took comfort from being with him when it happened.

He also said Reynolds had "no interest" in the 50th anniversary of the heist.

The congregation laughed when he added: "So perhaps, true to form, as he had so often done in the past when wanted for questioning, he chose to split the scene."

A tribute from Gordon Goody, who was Reynolds' deputy in planning the robbery, was also read out.

It claimed they were the "most infamous rogues in British criminal history".

He said: "Whatever Bruce did - and he did a lot - his driving motivation was for the betterment of his family."

During the funeral, Nick Reynolds and his band Alabama 3 performed their song Too Sick To Pray, while John Cooper Clarke read out a poem he wrote after Reynolds' death.

Tributes were given by Sky News crime correspondent Martin Brunt, actor David Thewlis and novelist Jake Arnott.

After the service, Reynolds' coffin was carried out of the church and placed in a hearse, to be taken to the West London Crematorium.

The robbery took place in August 1963. The gang pounced shortly after 3am as the train passed through the Buckinghamshire countryside close to Cheddington.

Antiques dealer Reynolds was nicknamed Napoleon and after the robbery he fled to Mexico on a false passport and was joined by his wife, Angela, and son, Nick.

They later moved on to Canada but the cash from the robbery ran out and he came back to England. Sentenced to 25 years in prison in 1969, he was released in 1978.