Train robber Biggs apologises but won't name names
HE MADE off with a fortune, evaded the law for 36 years and partied in Rio di Janiero without shame. Now Ronnie Biggs, the Great Train Robber, is to publish an updated autobiography, even though he was said to be on the verge of death two years ago.
His supposedly inexorable decline secured him compassionate release from prison, where he had been sent after returning to Britain in 2001 because he could not afford healthcare in Brazil.
This week he will appear in public to launch the book, in which for the first time he makes what he portrays as a full apology for his part in the robbery in 1963.
Unable to speak because of a series of strokes, he has used a spelling board to dictate the book to a ghostwriter. In it, Biggs says: "It has been said by those who don't know me. . . that I have no regrets, but that simply isn't true."
However, the manner of his "apology" suggests it falls far short of being a full expression of remorse as it makes only a fleeting mention of the train driver, Jack Mills, who was assaulted in the course of the robbery and died in 1970, aged 64.
Although the primary cause of death was leukaemia, his family have always insisted that he never recovered from the ordeal and were upset at the way Biggs profited from his notoriety while on the run.
In contrast, Mr Mills received £250 in compensation and never fully returned to work, retiring aged 62.
Biggs writes: "I also want to make it clear that I, and I am certain everyone involved in the Great Train Robbery, have always regretted that Mr Jack Mills was injured during the robbery and was put under such pressure during and after the trial.
"I apologise to Mr Mills, his family and to everyone else who was affected in any way by what happened on Thursday, August 8, 1963 and after. But there is nothing I can say or do that will wind the clock back. I have no magical Tardis, as much as I would like one."
In fact he reserves most of his apology for his family and friends, saying: "I have always regretted the hurt I caused by my actions and especially to my own family and friends.
"My wife, Charmian, and our sons, Chris and Farley, I am truly sorry for everything I put you through. It was not fair and I know that."
In what Biggs claims is his final word he does not address a number of outstanding questions which surround the robbery, from which he personally received the equivalent of pounds £2.5m.
In particular, he does not name the man he says was Mr Mills' assailant -- Biggs denies it was him -- extinguishing hope of finding the attacker and bringing him to justice.
Jack Straw, then justice secretary, released Biggs in August 2009 on compassionate grounds. However, Biggs has since staged a remarkable recovery -- attending a football match and getting around on a mobility scooter.
The publisher insists that Biggs is not personally profiting from the book, Odd Man Out, which would be illegal and could prompt Kenneth Clarke, the Justice Secretary, to order his return to prison.