Inside life of Great Train Robbery thief who became world's most wanted criminal

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Great Train robbery fugitive Ronnie Biggs, who has just had a posthumous autobiography of his life released (Image: Getty Images)
Great Train robbery fugitive Ronnie Biggs, who has just had a posthumous autobiography of his life released (Image: Getty Images)

He was claimed to be just the ‘tea boy’ who played the most minor part of them all in the “crime of the century”.

But it was Ronnie Biggs - a petty thief who had already retired from crime when he was invited to help rob a Royal Mail train in 1963 - who became the most notorious. The youngest of the train robbers, Ronnie was jailed for the crime in 1964, but escaped from Wandsworth Prison 15 months later and went on to spend 36 years on the run around the world, becoming the face of the robbery and the world’s most famous fugitive.

He spent most of those years living a playboy lifestyle in Rio de Janeiro, but finally surrendered to British police in 2001 after returning to Britain due to ill health and died in 2013 aged 84. But according to his best friend during the years in the Brazilian city, Chris Pickard, Biggs went to the grave believing that police had nothing on him - and that he would never have been convicted if officers had arrested one of four members of the gang who were never caught.

Inside life of Great Train Robbery thief who became world's most wanted criminal rriddqixxiqezinvBiggs is the most notorious name associated with the £2.6million robbery in 1963 (Mirrorpix)

Biggs’ task in the heist was to supervise the back-up train driver, who would move the train to a nearby bridge, where the money was to be unloaded. The man, known as ‘Peter’, was a retired train driver who had got involved in the robbery after meeting Biggs while working as a builder at his house.

Chris, who ghostwrote Biggs’ books including his latest posthumous autobiography, The Great Train Robber, published last month, says: “After the robbery they arrested Ron, and they knew shortly afterwards that his accomplice had been a builder working on his house. They didn’t have to be geniuses to work out who he was and arrest him, but they never did.

Man in 30s dies after being stabbed in park sparking police probeMan in 30s dies after being stabbed in park sparking police probe

“He was allowed to enjoyed his part of the loot and get on with his life. Over time Ron became convinced the police knew who Peter was but decided not to arrest him.

Inside life of Great Train Robbery thief who became world's most wanted criminalBiggs - pictured in 1987 with wife Raimunda De Castro - spent more than three decades on the run (Sygma via Getty Images)
Inside life of Great Train Robbery thief who became world's most wanted criminalHe became the world's most famous fugitive (ExpressStar)

“They knew that having a regular train driver testifying about Ron and the others in court would have undermined the prosecution’s story that they were a ruthless, violent gang. They needed that for sentencing, because they didn’t have much else.

“He thought they just must have told him just to shut up and disappear, and that’s why the rest of the gang got hefty sentences.” Chris also reveals that Ronnie Biggs nearly wrote a cookery book with him while on the run in Rio.

He remembers: “After his autobiography the publisher wanted another book, and Ron was a really good cook so we decided to do ‘Ronnie Biggs’ Crookery Book’. But we were before our time, there weren’t any celebrity cook books at the time and the publisher didn’t want it.

“He always regretted it, we’d even sorted out all the recipes, we were going to start with porridge.”

Matt Roper

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