Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs dies aged 84

One of the perpetrators of probably Britain's most notorious crime of the 20th Century has died.

Ronnie Biggs died in the early hours of this morning at the Carlton Court Care Home in East Barnet, north London, aged 84.

Biggs was part of the gang which escaped with 2.6m (the equivalent of 40 million today) after they held up the Glasgow to London Royal Mail train in Ledburn, Buckinghamshire, on 8 August 1963 - Biggs's 34th birthday. It became known as the Great Train Robbery.

The train driver, Jack Mills, was hit over the head with an iron bar during the robbery. He never fully recovered from his injury and died in 1970.

Biggs's fingerprints were found by the Metropolitan Police investigation team on a ketchup bottle at Leatherslade Farm. Three weeks later, Biggs was arrested along with 11 other members of the gang in South London. In 1964, nine of the 15-strong gang, including Biggs, were jailed for the crime; most received sentences of 30 years.

Biggs was given a 30-year sentence but escaped from Wandsworth Prison in London in 1965 by scaling the wall with a rope ladder and dropping onto a waiting removal van.

He spent the next 36 years of his life as a fugitive, living in places such as Brazil and Australia, before returning to the UK in 2001 and jailed. He was released in 2009 by then Home Secretary Jack Straw on compassionate grounds after suffering serious pneumonia, thereby allowing him to fulfil his wish that he will one day be able to enjoy a pint again in a Margate pub.

Biggs's death was the second of a Great Train Robber this year.

Coincidentally, Biggs's death comes on the very day that the BBC is to air its new drama on the Great Train Robbery. Written by the man who wrote Broadchurch, the first of the two-part drama will be shown at 8pm on BBC1 tonight.

Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs dies aged 84

BBC News
18 September 2013

Ronnie Biggs said his share of the haul had been 147,000

British criminal Ronnie Biggs, who took part in the 1963 Great Train Robbery, has died aged 84, his spokeswoman has confirmed.

Biggs was part of the gang which escaped with 2.6m from the Glasgow to London mail train on 8 August 1963.

He was given a 30-year sentence but escaped from Wandsworth prison in 1965.

In 2001, he returned to the UK seeking medical help but was sent to prison. He was released on compassionate grounds in 2009 after contracting pneumonia.

Train driver Jack Mills was struck over the head during the robbery and never worked again. He died in 1970.

'Small-time crook'

Biggs, who died early on Wednesday, was being cared for at the Carlton Court Care Home in East Barnet, north London.

He could not speak and had difficulty walking after a series of strokes.

He was last seen in public at the funeral of his fellow Great Train Robber, Bruce Reynolds, in March.

Christopher Pickard, ghost writer of Biggs's autobiography, said he should be remembered as "one of the great characters of the last 50 years".

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme his friend was "a very kind and generous man with a great sense of humour".

Biggs was "one of the first products of the media age" who "inherited fame while running around the world," he said.

Anthony Delano, who wrote a book about Biggs, met the criminal a number of times.

"He was a man with no moral compass whatever," he told BBC Radio 5 live.

"He was a small-time crook who probably would have ended up in prison for a greater part of his life anyway.

"I think he was lucky actually to have so much of it free."

And Mick Whelan, general secretary of train drivers' union Aslef, expressed sympathy for Biggs's family but said: "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."

Target: The train after it had been ransacked by Biggs and his fellow thieves in Buckinghamshire

Scene: The train parked on an embankment in Buckinghamshire in the aftermath of the robbery

Investigation: Police walk along the railway lines while looking into the circumstances of the crime

Biggs and 11 other robbers were jailed for a combined total of more than 300 years for the robbery. Pictured is Biggs's police record sheet

Decades earlier: Three of the robbers covered in blankets leave a court hearing in 1963

Biggs lived in Australia and Brazil while on the run

"Jack Mills, who was 57 at the time of the robbery, never properly recovered from the injuries he suffered after being savagely coshed by the gang of which Biggs was a member that night."

'Totally regrettable'

Biggs, Reynolds, Ronald 'Buster' Edwards and the other gang members wore helmets and ski masks to carry out their crime, which took place near Cheddington, Buckinghamshire.

They made off with 120 bags of money totalling 2.6m - the equivalent of 40m in today's money.

Speaking to Nicky Campbell on Radio 1 in 2000 - before his return to the UK - Biggs said his share of the money had been 147,000.

"I squandered it totally - within three years it was all gone," he said.

Since then he had been "living on my name only," he added.

He said it was "totally regrettable" that train driver Jack Mills has been injured during the robbery.

"I regret it fully myself - I only wish it would not have happened but there's no way that I can put the clock back."

But Biggs said he did not regret the robbery and, referring to comments made by the judge in the trial, he said: "I'm totally involved in vast greed, I'm afraid."

Rope ladder

Train driver Jack Mills was hit over the head with an iron bar

Peter Rayner, a former chief operating officer for British Rail who worked with Mr Mills, said: "My view is that whilst I was, and am, critical of the Great Train Robbers and the heroes' welcome they got, especially in light of the death of Jack Mills, my sympathies go out to his family."

Biggs, who lived in Australia and Brazil while he was on the run, had been in prison for 15 months when he used a rope ladder to climb over the prison walls.

He had initially fled to Paris, with his wife Charmian and two sons, Farley and Chris.

He was arrested in Rio de Janeiro in 1974 by Chief Supt Jack Slipper, of Scotland Yard.

But he successfully argued against extradition because he had fathered a son, Michael, by his Brazilian girlfriend, Raimunda.

In 2011, his son, Michael, told the BBC News website his father had a final wish that his ashes be spread between Brazil and London.

The BBC said two film dramas about the robbery - A Robber's Tale and A Copper's Tale - scheduled to be broadcast on BBC One on Wednesday and Thursday, would still go ahead.

Reconstruction: A scene from a new BBC drama on the Great Train Robbery which, coincidentally, premieres tonight

Cast: The gang of robbers as depicted in the BBC's drama, including Jack Gordon as Biggs, second right

Gang: The programme's depiction of the thugs who orchestrated the carefully planned robbery

Portrayal: Jack Gordon playing Biggs in the BBC television drama which will begin tonight


Danny Shaw Home affairs correspondent, BBC News

Loveable old rogue or violent criminal? Ronnie Biggs divided opinion like few other offenders.

Some admired his audacity - the robbery, the prison escape and the 36 years on the run, cocking a snook at authority as he lived the high life in Brazil.

Others detested his cavalier attitude to the rules by which most law-abiding people live their lives - and they remember that the robbery was not a "victimless" crime. Jack Mills, the train driver, beaten with an iron bar, never fully recovered and died of leukaemia seven years later.

The case of Ronnie Biggs is a reminder of our sometimes conflicting attitude to crime and criminals.

BBC News - Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs dies aged 84


The country was left stunned after a train was hijacked and robbed 35 miles from its London destination in August 1963.

A 17-strong gang launched the raid on the overnight service from Glasgow at the Bridego Railway Bridge in Ledburn, Buckinghamshire in the early hours of August 8 in what has been dubbed the 'crime of the century'.

Led by the charismatic Bruce Reynolds, the group of criminals pulled off the notorious heist, making off with 2.6million - the equivalent of 40million today.

The train was stopped at a set of fixed signals which the gang had switched, leading driver Jack Mills to go and investigate.

He was knocked out by an iron bar wielded by an unknown member of the gang, forcing him to give up work, and he died seven years later.

Following an outcry over Charmian Biggs cashing in on her husband's crime by selling her story to the Press, the Daily Mail sponsored a fund to help Mills's family, raising more than 34,000 by the time of his death.

The bulk of the huge haul has never been recovered.

The gang shared out the proceeds at isolated Leatherslade Farm - Biggs taking around 148,000 - but thereafter things started to go badly wrong, with nearly all the gang members being rounded up by the police.

In fact, the Leatherslade Farm hide-out was a huge mistake on the part of the gang. The police were telling reporters that they were looking for an isolated farm which had just changed hands and which was 25 miles from the scene of the crime. Leatherslade met every one of these requirements.

When the gang became aware that the police were hot on their scent, they quit the farm hurriedly, leaving behind scores of tell-tale fingerprints.

Most of the ringleaders were quickly rounded up, and 11 of the robbers got jail sentences ranging from 14 to 30 years.

Read more: Ronnie Biggs is dead: Great Train Robber passed away after long illness | Mail Online
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Ronnie Biggs is dead: Great Train Robber passed away after long illness | Mail Online
Last edited by Blackleaf; Dec 18th, 2013 at 12:02 PM..
One less thief in the world.
I can't say that I am overly sad that he's passed on.
He was old and sick and lost his train of thought eh

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