'Great Train Robber' Ronnie Biggs dies in Britain aged 84

'Great Train Robber' Ronnie Biggs dies in Britain aged 84

Ronnie Biggs, one of Britain's most notorious criminals who attained global infamy for his part in the "Great Train Robbery" of 1963, died today. He was 84.

Biggs was part of a gang that robbed a mail train from Glasgow to London carrying cash on August 8, 1963 and escaped with 2.6 million pounds- - the equivalent of 40 million pounds in today's money- a record haul at the time.

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

Although the gang initially seemed to get away with it, 11 of the robbers were rounded up and sent to jail, with Biggs sentenced to 30 years. But he escaped from Wandsworth prison in 1965 after just 15 months behind bars.

Biggs initially fled to Paris, with his wife Charmian and two sons, Farley and Chris. He had plastic surgery and then moved to Australia.

But when Scotland Yard tracked him down he escaped to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. There he had a son with his Brazilian girlfriend, which ensured him immunity from extradition to Britain.

Speaking in 2000, Biggs said his share of the money had been 147,000 pounds. "I squandered it totally - within three years it was all gone."

In 2001, he returned to the UK seeking medical help after suffering several strokes. On his return Biggs was immediately arrested and taken to high-security Belmarsh Prison.

He was released on compassionate grounds in 2009 after contracting pneumonia. Anthony Delano, who wrote a book about the robbery, told Sky News that Biggs was an "idiot". "He was a small time south London crook who nobody wanted on the team because he was a weak link," Delano said.

Biggs, who could not speak due to his strokes and communicated through a spelling board, had said, "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 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 said.

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

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