ronnie biggs, bruce reynolds, the great train robbery
AP/Douglas Engle
Ronnie Biggs, left, on his 70th birthday with
fellow train robber Bruce Reynolds.

Train Robber Ronnie Biggs Spent Life on the Run, Is Released From Jail

August 07, 2009 05:30 PM
by Haley A. Lovett
Ronnie Biggs went to jail in 2001 after nearly 40 years on the lam. This week he is once again a free man after officials released the convicted train robber due to his failing health.

Biggs Is Released, But No Longer a Threat

On August 7, just one day shy of his 80th birthday, Ronnie Biggs was officially released from prison. But, according to the AP, the train robber is close to death, having suffered a number of strokes over the last few years. Biggs also has a broken hip and pneumonia, and according to the Guardian, cannot communicate or eat.

Biggs had applied for parole before, but until now had been in jail—according to justice secretary Jack Straw, he “had shown no remorse for his crimes.” The change in decision was made due to Biggs’ failing health.

Although Biggs is technically “free” he will remain at the Norfolk and Norwich University hospital where he has been staying. The three guards that had been watching Biggs will now leave his side.

His 80th birthday is also the anniversary of the date that Biggs committed one of the most famous crimes in history.

Background: The Great Train Robbery

In 1963 Ronnie Biggs was one of 15 men who committed what would become known as “The Great Train Robbery,” getting away with the equivalent of tens of millions of dollars from a mail train in Europe.

Read more about the Great Train Robbery.

Ronnie Biggs: Thief, Fugitive, Musician?

In 1964, Ronnie Biggs was convicted, and sentenced to 30 years in prison for his part in the train robbery. However, according to ITN, Biggs only spent 15 months in prison before he escaped on July 7, 1965, by climbing over a wall during his exercise time. He then moved around from country to country, and according to the Telegraph had plastic surgery to change his appearance. Biggs later settled in Brazil.
Biggs was almost extradited from Brazil in 1974, but as luck would have it his girlfriend had given birth to a son, and according to The Guardian, fathering the child (who was a Brazilian national by birth) allowed Biggs to stay in the country.

Over the next 20 years Biggs became somewhat of a legend in Europe, and according to The Guardian he was known to charge tourists to dine with him. His fame brought him many opportunities: in 1978 he recorded the song “No One Is Innocent” with the Sex Pistols; in 1988 a film was made about the train robbery; and in 1994 Biggs published an autobiography, “Odd Man Out.” 

In 1998 his health began to fail, and he suffered three strokes in the next few years. After spending years chasing him and failing to extradite him from Brazil, Scotland Yard received an e-mail from Biggs saying that he’d like to return to Britain. On May 7, 2001, Ronnie Briggs arrived back in the U.K., having been on the run for most of his life. He spent the next nine years attempting to get out of jail (legally) and was freed on August 7, 2009.

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