‘Great train robber’ Biggs wants to go home

LONDON, Reuters

Fugitive Ronnie Biggs of Britain’s notorious “Great Train Robbery” gang told a tabloid newspaper on Thursday he wants to return home from Brazil after 35 years on the run.

Police said they had also received an e-mail from a man claiming to be the 71-year-old train robber, who escaped from a London prison in 1965 two years after helping to pull off one of the most famous heists in history.

The tabloid Sun newspaper said Biggs, struck dumb by a stroke, had sent an e-mail to Detective Chief Superintendent John Coles in charge of London’s serious crime squad.

The e-mail included a copy of a fingerprint for identification.

The Sun reported that the notorious fugitive wanted to end his days in England.

“I am a sick man,” Biggs told The Sun in an interview conducted on paper through his son Michael, 26. “My last wish is to walk into a Margate pub as an Englishman and buy a pint of bitter. I hope I live long enough to be able to do that.”

Lawyer Kevin Crace, representing Biggs, told Sky Television his client was prepared to face arrest.

“We have informed the Metropolitan Police and Ronnie is aware that when he arrives at (London’s) Heathrow airport he will be arrested,” Crace said.

Biggs escaped from Wandsworth prison in 1965 after serving 15 months of a 30-year sentence for his part in the robbery of a Glasgow-to-London mail train.

The raid netted more than 2.6 million pounds, or US$50 million in today’s money. It also became part of crime folklore, making heroes out of villains in the eyes of many Britons.

The life story of gang member Buster Edwards, who became a flower salesman after early release from prison, was made into a hit film starring singer Phil Collins.

Edwards was found hanged in his garage in 1994, while another of the robbers, Charlie Wilson, was shot dead outside his Spanish villa in 1990 in an apparent gangland killing.

Biggs was one of several of the gang of 15 to be sentenced by a British court to 30 years in prison.

But fellow inmate Paul Seabourne helped spring him from jail, after which he travelled to Paris for plastic surgery before settling in Australia and, from 1970, in Brazil.

Biggs pays tribute to Seabourne on his official Web site (www.ronniebiggs.com) for putting “his liberty on the line while rescuing me from the Hate Factory 35 years ago.” Seabourne served four more years in prison for his services.

Biggs claims to have been kidnapped while in Brazil and found off the Caribbean island of Barbados where he was held on “Death Row” awaiting possible extradition home.

But a legal loophole allowed his return to Brazil. He escaped the clutches of the law once again when a court rejected a British extradition request in 1997.

Biggs told The Sun the hardest thing about returning home would be leaving his son and granddaughter in Brazil.

“I know that when I leave it might be the last time I see her. But I’ve had a great life. I don’t regret anything.”