Great Train robber Ronnie Biggs has died at the age of 84
- Getty Images
Ronnie Biggs, the best known member of the Great Train Robbery gang has died at the age of 84. With a flair for the dramatic that had served him admirably throughout his life, Biggs passed away on the day the BBC was set to broadcast a dramatisation of the robbery.
Biggs was arrested after the £2.6m heist of a mail train and sentenced to 30 years in prison. Despite never having been much of a criminal mastermind, he managed to escape from the maximum security Wandsworth prison and hightailed it to altogether more exotic climes where he proceeded to live life on the run to the full, embracing a playboy lifestyle, sun soaked notoriety and a flexible moral compass.
Finally running out of money and good health in 2001, he surrendered to Scotland Yard against the protests of his nearest and dearest, but only served 8 further years in prison before he was released on compassionate grounds. Flamboyant even in surrender, he gave himself up with the help of The Sun newspaper who flew him back to the UK on a private jet laden with curry and beer.
After the most lucrative robbery in UK criminal history at the time, things began to rapidly unravel with the train robbers rounded swiftly up by police. Following his escape from Wandsworth, Biggs had major plastic surgery performed in Paris to change his appearance and made it to Australia where he ran a boarding house under the name Terry King. Moving on to Brazil, he was tracked down in Rio by a reporter and the wonderfully named Jack Slipper of the Yard. Having made a record entitled No One is Innocent with the Sex Pistols, he was kidnapped and smuggled off to Barbados by a reward hungry band of self appointed bounty hunters, only to be set free by Barbadian authorities.
Biggs remained thoroughly unrepentant about the robbery, seeing himself far more as a ‘loveable rogue’ And that legacy would be fine if it hadn’t led to the coshing of train driver Jack Mills who died several years afterwards. Though nothing in his history suggested Biggs himself was violent, that one act of non fatal violence still somehow looms in his legacy.
- Ronnie Biggs