Ailing Great Train Robber, Ronnie Biggs Seeks Release on Parole

April 21, 2009

(ChattahBox)—A 1963 heist of a Glasgow to London mail train in Ledburn, Buckinghamshire, known as the Great Train Robbery, which netted the 15 robbers £2.6 million or $7.3 million, a fortune at the time, captivated the imaginations of the public and transformed the gang of robbers into folk heroes. Perhaps the most famous of the Great Train Robbers was Ronnie Biggs, who daringly escaped from prison after receiving a 30-year sentence, spending decades on the lam as a fugitive, before returning to England in 2001.

Now nearly 80-years old and very ill, Biggs is expected to be granted parole and released by July 3 of this year.

The bold heist, the largest in Britain’s history, until a 1980s Brinks’ robbery, became the basis for numerous films and books over the years. The case even had a real-life character of a dogged, Scotland Yard detective named, Jack Slipper known as Slipper of the Yard, who pursued Ronnie Biggs across the globe, even in retirement.

Detective Slipper eventually arrested 12 of the gang of robbers, bringing them to trial. Ronnie Biggs was tried and sentenced to 30 years, in Wandsworth prison, a high-security, “escape proof” prison similar to Alcatraz, but Biggs found a way to escape after serving just 15 months of his sentence. He scaled a 30-ft wall and then climbed down the other side on a waiting ladder provided by an accomplice, and then escaped in a waiting van.

The next thirty-years of Ronnie Biggs’ life is right out of a Hollywood movie. He made his way to Paris with most of his share of the robbery loot, securing fake identity papers and undergoing plastic surgery to change his appearance. He spent some time in Spain, and then settled down in Australia, before escaping to Brazil in 1970 when the police caught up with him.

Detective Slipper showed up in Rio de Janeiro in 1974 to arrest Biggs and bring him back to England, but Brazil had no extradition treaty with England, and his Brazilian nightclub-dancer girlfriend was pregnant at the time with his son, Michael. Brazil would not expel a parent of a Brazilian child from the country. Detective Slipper was foiled yet again in his life’s work to recapture Ronnie Biggs.

Now Biggs could rest easy and live openly in Brazil without fear of becoming arrested and extradited. Although he had the proceeds from the heist, it apparently didn’t cover the costs of decades of life as a fugitive. Ronnie Biggs was said to have lived a hand to mouth existence for many of his final years in Brazil.

Finally, in 2001 Biggs was 71-years old, had suffered three strokes and decided to return to England, knowing he would be sent back to prison. Some say he returned to England to receive medical care that was unavailable in Brazil. Biggs himself said he wanted to “walk into a Margate pub as an Englishman and buy a pint of bitter.”

After a recent stay in the hospital for a serious bout of pneumonia, unable to walk or speak due to his strokes, Ronnie Biggs’ son Michael is hoping the Parole Board will release his father in time for his 80th birthday in August. Michael Biggs says his father served one third of his sentence, making him eligible for parole under the law and that his father, now old and feeble isn’t a danger to anyone.

Biggs’ medical condition is so severe, he may not survive before he is released. If Ronnie Biggs does manage to survive to be released from prison this summer, he sadly may be too ill to enjoy that long dreamed of pint of bitter.

The determined Detective Slipper died in 2005 at the age of 81, at peace with the fact that his long time adversary, Ronnie Biggs was returned to prison, although not by his hands. In the end, both men developed a grudging respect for one another. They were two men from opposite sides of the law, both at the top of their games, one a cunning criminal and lovable rogue and the other, a tenacious lawman willing to travel the globe to apprehend an outlaw.

Ronnie Biggs’ parole hearing is scheduled for this Thursday.

Source


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8 Responses to “Ailing Great Train Robber, Ronnie Biggs Seeks Release on Parole”

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