Cheeky floral tribute a final statement from Great Train Robber

Defiant to the end, British train robber Ronnie Biggs was laid to rest yesterday at a funeral complete with a Dixieland band, an honour guard of Hells Angels and a cheeky floral tribute.

A hearse carrying Biggs, who died last month, aged 84, was escorted by 13 bikers to London's Golders Green Crematorium.

The hearse bore a white floral wreath in the shape of a rude two-fingered salute, and a coffin draped in the flags of Britain and of Brazil, where Biggs lived for three decades and where he was transformed from fugitive into folk hero.

He had been cared for at a London care home, after suffering several strokes in recent years.


His carers joined the funeral procession as the coffin was brought into the packed chapel to the strains of the London Dixieland Jazz Band.

"People have asked me 'How can you take part in the funeral of a Great Train Robber'?" said Reverend Dave Thompson, who led the funeral service. "What we need to remember is that Jesus didn't hang out with hoity-toity folk, he just treated people as people."

Biggs was part of a gang that pulled off the 1963 "Great Train Robbery" of a cash-packed Glasgow-to-London mail train.

The heist netted 1.6 million at the time, or more than US$60m (36m) today, but most of the gang members were soon arrested.

Biggs was jailed but escaped from London's Wandsworth Prison and made his way to Rio de Janeiro, where he regaled journalists and tourists with his story, recorded with the Sex Pistols and sold commemorative T-shirts before returning to Britain, and prison, in 2001.

Elderly and in failing health, Biggs was released in 2009 on compassionate grounds.

He said he hoped to be remembered as a lovable rogue though that label was rejected by some, including the widow of the mail train's driver, who was injured in the robbery and never fully recovered.

Biggs' Brazil-born son Michael remembered his father as someone who "always had a soft spot for the underdog and he considered himself to be one".

"Dad never made enemies and after arriving in Brazil he embraced the culture," Michael Biggs said.

Biggs' ashes are to be scattered in England and Brazil.