Great Train Robber Biggs gets sendoff from prominent UK criminal figures


Sun, Jan 05, 2014 - Page 6

Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs was laid to rest on Friday as some of Britain’s best-known criminal figures paid their respects.

Biggs’ audacious escape from jail and decades on the run made him one of Britain’s most notorious criminals.

His coffin was accompanied by a floral wreath shaped like a two-fingered salute.

Biggs made the V-sign when he last appeared in public, at the funeral of robbery mastermind Bruce Reynolds.

Biggs died on Dec. 18 aged 84. He lived out his final days in a London nursing home, unable to speak and barely able to walk following a series of strokes.

The funeral cortege was escorted to Golders Green Crematorium in north London by Hell’s Angels bikers and a six-piece Dixie band.

Biggs’ coffin was covered with the British and Brazilian flags, his hat and a scarf in the red-and-white colors of his favorite football team, Charlton Athletic.

His son, Michael, said his father had embraced Brazilian culture while on the run in Rio de Janeiro.

“Let’s celebrate his life with a proper booze-up later on, ashes to ashes and dust to the beach,” he said.

“Don’t worry mate, you are not paying for the booze,” he added.

Charles Bronson, one of the country’s longest-serving prisoners, sent a bouquet, while London gangland figures were among the congregation at the chapel.

Biggs was part of the gang that robbed a night mail train traveling from Glasgow to London on Aug. 8, 1963, seizing £2.6 million (US$4.2 million) — a record at the time and the equivalent of £46 million today.

Sentenced to 30 years in jail in 1964, Biggs escaped from prison after just 15 months and went on the run, first to Australia and then to Brazil, in a globe-trotting dance with the authorities that caught the popular imagination.

In Rio he had a son, Michael, with a Brazilian woman, which gave him immunity from extradition back to Britain.

Beyond the reach of the law, Biggs appeared to revel in his notoriety, posing for newspaper pictures and cementing his folk hero status.

He returned to Britain voluntarily in 2001 when his physical deterioration took the fun out of the fugitive life and left him pining for home.

Biggs was immediately sent back to jail to serve out his sentence, but was released on compassionate grounds in 2009 due to his worsening health.