Ronnie Biggs: Great Train Robber Dies Aged 84

Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs has died at the age of 84 after years of ill health.

Biggs was part of the 15-member gang that robbed a Glasgow to London Royal Mail train in 1963 and escaped with a then-record haul of £2.6m, the equivalent of more than £40m today.

But he became better known for his years on the run after escaping from prison 15 months into a 30-year sentence.

He was last seen in public in March at the funeral of Bruce Reynolds who masterminded the audacious robbery.

The gang of robbers pounced shortly after 3am on August 8, 1963, Biggs' 34th birthday, as the train passed through the Buckinghamshire countryside close to Cheddington.

The train driver, Jack Mills, was struck with an iron bar and died a few years later.

Biggs was jailed for his part in the robbery itself but escaped from Wandsworth prison in south-west London by climbing a 30ft wall and fleeing in a furniture van.

The fugitive avoided British justice for 36 years, mainly living in Brazil and Australia.

He was tracked down in 1974 but was able to stay in Rio de Janiero because he had got his Brazilian lover Raimunda de Castro pregnant.

As the father of a Brazilian child, Michael, Biggs won himself immunity from extradition under Brazilian law 941.

He finally returned to England with his son in 2001 as his health failed, and served eight years of his original sentence first in Belmarsh Prison and later Norwich Prison.

Because of his ill health, he was released on compassionate grounds by then Justice Secretary Jack Straw in 2009.

Biggs spent his final years at the Carlton Court Care Home in East Barnet, North London, completely reliant on nursing staff.

In his 2011 biography, Odd Man Out: The Last Straw, Biggs said he believed the public saw him as a "loveable rogue".

After suffering a series of strokes, Biggs used a homemade letters board to communicate and effectively dictated his book to a ghostwriter.

He said using his board: "If you want to ask me if I have any regrets about being one of the train robbers, my answer is, 'No'.

"I will go further: I am proud to have been one of them. I am equally happy to be described as the 'tea-boy' or 'The Brain'.

"I was there that August night and that is what counts. I am one of the few witnesses - living or dead - to what was 'The Crime of the Century'."

He did admit to some regrets.

"It is regrettable, as I have said many times, that the train driver was injured," he said.

Biggs went on: "And he was not the only victim. The people who paid the heaviest price for the Great Train Robbery are the families. The families of everyone involved in the Great Train Robbery, and from both sides of the track.

Ronnie Biggs seen in a Buckinghamshire Police photo taken in 1963, the year of the Great Train Robbery. (SWNS)
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Yahoo News. | Photo by SWNS / SWNS
Wed, Dec 18, 2013 09:00 GMT
"All have paid a price for our collective involvement in the robbery. A very heavy price, in the case of my family.

"For that, I do have my regrets."

Anthony Delano, who wrote a book about the robbery, told Sky News Biggs was an "idiot".

"He was a small time south London crook who nobody wanted on the team because he was a weak link."

Following the announcement of Biggs' death Mick Whelan, general secretary of train drivers' union Aself, said: "While, naturally, we feel sorry for Mr Biggs's family at this time, we have always regarded Biggs as a nonentity, and a criminal, who took part in a violent robbery which resulted in the death of a train driver."

The Transport Salaried Staffs' Association tweeted: "In case today's media confuses you: attacking railway staff with an iron bar to the extent they're barely able to work again really isn't OK."

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