Last Updated on September 3, 2023 by ADMIN-TOM
August 2023 saw the 60th anniversary of the Great Train Robbery in the UK.
The robbery took place on the 8th August 1963 and involved a gang holding up a Royal Mail train on a journey from Glasgow to London. The train was carrying sacks of paper money collected at various stations on route. At the time, the robbery was the biggest ever in the criminal history of the UK and netted the robbers 2.6m pounds sterling ($4.25m), worth something like 45m pounds sterling ($73.5m) today.
The getaway plan after the robbery wasn’t fully implemented when an accomplice failed to burn down Leatherslade Farm where the gang had spent time counting the stolen money and dividing the spoils. The police eventually tracked down the gang’s movements and at the farm evidence in the form of Biggs’ fingerprints were found on a tomato sauce bottle by the Police.
Biggs was tracked down and arrested in South London. Eleven other members of the gang were also arrested. In 1964, nine of the 15-strong gang, including Biggs, were jailed for the crime. Most received sentences of 30 years.
The gang were all captured, and the ringleaders received thirty years. Two of the gang managed to evade capture for several years, these being Buster Edwards and the mastermind Bruce Reynolds, but all were captured and jailed in the end.
During the robbery, train diver Jack Mills was coshed with an iron bar and never worked again, suffering ill health until his death in 1970.
Most notable among the criminals was Ronnie Biggs. Not as a ringleader, but a small-time crook brought into the conspiracy because he knew a retired train driver who would help the gang move the train once stopped.
Biggs became infamous in the UK and some parts of the world because he managed to escape from Wandsworth prison in London in 1965 and spent almost the entire rest of his days on the run, living in France, Australia and Brazil.
In Brazil, Biggs was arrested by British Police from Scotland Yard in 1974. He escaped extradition due to his fathering of a child by a local girl. He spent the rest of his life as a free man, until the year 2000 when he sought leave to return to the UK on the grounds of ill health. Biggs, on arrival in the UK, was arrested and jailed. However, he was released on compassionate grounds in 2009 after contracting pneumonia.
The synchronicity in this matter is that Ronnie Biggs died on the 18th December 2013, the same day part one of a BBC two-part TV drama about The Great Train Robbery was screened.
Copyright © Tom Kane 2022
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