Train robber Biggs used his notoriety to enjoy high life

FOR 50 years the name Ronnie Biggs was synonymous with the heydays of the London 'villains'.

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  • Ronnie Biggs was last seen in public in March attending the funeral of Bruce Reynolds
    Ronnie Biggs was last seen in public in March attending the funeral of Bruce Reynolds
  • Ronnie Biggs was last seen in public in March attending the funeral of Bruce Reynolds
  • Ronnie Biggs was last seen in public in March attending the funeral of Bruce Reynolds
  • Ronnie Biggs was last seen in public in March attending the funeral of Bruce Reynolds
  • Ronnie Biggs was last seen in public in March attending the funeral of Bruce Reynolds
  • Ronnie Biggs was last seen in public in March attending the funeral of Bruce Reynolds
  • Ronnie Biggs was last seen in public in March attending the funeral of Bruce Reynolds

With the death of the Great Train Robber, who was last seen in public in March, at the funeral of fellow gang member Bruce Reynolds, an era has come to an end.

Biggs won worldwide notoriety for his 36 years on the run ­after escaping prison. He ended his days at Carlton Court Care Home in north London, after suffering several strokes in recent years.

He was released from prison in 2009 on compassionate grounds due to ill health, despite being re- arrested in 2001 after evading the authorities since his first escape from Wandsworth Prison in 1965.

At the time of his escape, Biggs had served just 15 months of the 30-year sentence he was handed for his part in the robbery of a Royal Mail freight train ­between Glasgow and London on August 8 1963.

Biggs became Britain's most-wanted fugitive and was often photographed surrounded by bikini-clad Brazilian girls on Rio's ­Copacabana beach.

He even recorded a song in 1978, No One is Innocent, with the Sex Pistols.

Earlier this year, he said he was proud to have been part of the gang behind the robbery, which saw 15 men escape with a record haul of £2.6million - the equivalent of about £46m today.

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

His death prompted mixed reactions from those affected by the robbery.

For many, the glamour of the crime was overshadowed by the brutal attack on the train's driver. Jack Mills, who was coshed, reportedly by Biggs, never fully recovered from the ­ordeal and died a few years later.

Mr Mills's family ­described Biggs as just a criminal.

His son Stephen died on Christmas Day 2011, aged 48. His widow Barbara Mills, 57, from Sandbach, Cheshire, said: "I'm just sad Stephen died before he did. Biggs is not a hero, he's just an out and out villain."

Peter Rayner, former chief operating officer of British Rail, said: "My view is that while I was - and am - critical of the Great Train Robbers and the heroes' welcome they got, especially in light of the death of Jack Mills, my sympathies go out to his family."

Biggs admitted he ­"regretted" the attack on Mr Mills.

He said: "It is regrettable 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."

Mick Whelan, general secretary of the train drivers' union Aslef,said: "While, naturally, we feel sorry for Mr Biggs' family at this time, we have always regarded Biggs as a non-entity and a criminal, who took part in a violent robbery.

"Jack Mills, who was 57 at the time of the robbery, never properly recovered from the injuries he suffered after being savagely coshed by the gang of which Biggs was a member that night."

Author Mike Gray, who has written numerous books on the Great Train Robbery and on Biggs, said: "He was never a bad person. His criminal CV was laughable before the train robbery and none of the train robbers wanted him on the robbery as they had never heard of him."

Burglary

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