Train robber Biggs still unrepentant after 50 years

By Guy Jackson

Ronnie Biggs. Photo / AP
Ronnie Biggs. Photo / AP

Half a century after Britain's infamous Great Train Robbery, the most notorious member of the gang, Ronnie Biggs, is unrepentant and says he is proud of his role in the heist.

The gang stole the equivalent of 45 million ($87 million) in today's money from a mail train travelling from Glasgow to London 50 years ago on Thursday.

The crime itself was audacious enough, but it was Biggs' 36 years on the run and his life in Brazil that propelled him to fame. He escaped from prison in 1965 and was finally arrested and thrown back in jail in 2001 on his voluntary return to Britain.

Biggs, who will celebrate his 84th birthday on the anniversary of the robbery, was released from prison in 2009 after his lawyer claimed he was close to death following a series of strokes.

But he is still alive and although confined to a wheelchair, he showed he has lost none of his old defiance by making an obscene gesture to journalists at the funeral of the gang's mastermind, Bruce Reynolds, in March this year.

Biggs, who cannot speak and communicates through a spelling board, said ahead of the 50th anniversary: "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 am equally happy to be described as the 'tea-boy' or 'The Brain'.

"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."

Biggs admitted, however, that he did have some regrets. "It is regrettable, as I have said many times, that the train driver was injured." And he was not the only victim.

"The people who paid the heaviest price for the Great Train Robbery are the families, the families of everyone involved in the Great Train Robbery, and from both sides of the track."

Nine of the 16 involved went on trial in 1964 and each was given 30 years in jail, although most did not serve out the whole sentence.

- AFP

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