UK's 'Great Train Robber' dies at 84

Ronnie Biggs, one of Britain's most notorious criminals, robbed a train in 1963, making off with millions of pounds.

    Ronnie Biggs, one of Britain's most notorious criminals known for his role in the Great Train Robbery of 1963, died at the age of 84, his spokeswoman said.

    Biggs gained notoriety 50 years ago as one of an 11-member gang that tampered with railway signals and stopped a Royal Mail night train, making off with 2.6 million pounds ($4.2 million), equivalent to about 40 million pounds in today's money.

    Biggs was caught after the robbery and received a 30-year jail sentence but escaped from prison and spent 36 years on the run, leading a playboy lifestyle in South America.

    He became the most famous of the gang after escaping from London's Wandsworth Prison, where he was serving his sentence, by scaling a wall with a rope ladder.

    Flaunting his freedom, he once recorded a song "No One is Innocent" with the British punk band the Sex Pistols.

    Biggs finally surrendered to British police in 2001 and returned to prison but was freed in 2009 on health grounds.

    His son Michael, who had been caring for him in recent years, left a message on his phone on Wednesday saying he would not be taking many calls for "obvious reasons".

    Biggs always said he never regretted his role in the robbery, although the crime involved a violent attack on the train driver, as it gave him fame.

    "It has given me a little place in history," he said in one interview. "I made good in a curious way I suppose. I became infamous."

    His spokeswoman said he died in the early hours of Wednesday morning. He had been living in a care home in north London in recent years.

    Biggs was last seen in public in August at a memorial service at Highgate cemetery in north London for Bruce Reynolds, the mastermind of the robbery, who died aged 81 in February.

    Frail and using a wheelchair, Biggs was unable to talk after a series of strokes. He was the only one of about four remaining gang members who was well enough to make the event.

    Most of the gang were caught and given prison sentences totalling more than 300 years after the robbery of the train travelling from Glasgow to London.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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