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Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs dies at 84

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HEIST: Biggs poses for a photo while on the run in Brazil

HEIST: Biggs poses for a photo while on the run in Brazil

HEIST: Biggs poses for a photo while on the run in Brazil

GREAT Train Robber Ronnie Biggs has died aged 84 after years of ill health.

He was part of a gang that robbed a Glasgow to London mail train in 1963, taking £2.6m (33m), the equivalent of £40m (€47m) today.

The gang robbed the train on August 8 while it passed through the Buckinghamshire countryside.

The driver, Jack Mills was hit with an iron bar and never worked again.

Most of the 16-strong gang were arrested within months and handed 30-year prison terms.

Biggs served 15 months before escaping from Wandsworth Prison on July 8 1965 by scaling the wall with a rope ladder.

He fled to Brussels by boat, then went to Paris with his wife and two sons, where he acquired new identity papers and underwent plastic surgery.

DECLINED

Biggs was on the run for more than 35 years before giving himself up in 2001 and returning to the UK to spend several years in prison, where his health declined rapidly.

He was released on compassionate grounds in 2009 and lived his final years in a care home after a number of strokes.

The robber was last seen in public in March at the funeral of Bruce Reynolds – the man who masterminded the heist

Reynolds assembled at least 15 hardened criminals, including Biggs, for the job that he called the "big one". A huge nationwide hunt was launched, with the public urged to keep an eye out for people spending a lot of money, and the names and pictures of some robbers given to newspapers.

The first arrests, those of Roger Cordrey and William Boal, were made in Bournemouth when Cordrey had some bad luck – he tried to rent a lock-up from a policeman's widow.

By December, most of the robbers had been arrested. Twelve of them were jailed for a total of more than 300 years, but more than one broke out of prison, including Biggs, who spent more than 35 years on the run.

Reynolds marked the 40th anniversary of the robbery in 2003 as guest of honour at a fete in Oakley, Buckinghamshire, close to the gang's hideout at Leatherslade Farm.

He said: "As a career criminal you reach a pinnacle and that was it – it was a bit like a journalist finding out that Hitler was still alive.

"Plus it had those elements of fantasy. I was brought up on Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Jesse James."

hnews@herald.ie


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