18 Dec 2013

Great Train Robbery's Ronnie Biggs dies

10:15 pm on 18 December 2013

British criminal Ronnie Biggs, who gained notoriety for his role in the Great Train Robbery in 1963, has died. He was 84.

Ronnie Biggs publicising his book in 1994.

Ronnie Biggs publicising his book in 1994. Photo: AFP

Biggs, who spent 35 years on the run, was known for his ingenuity in evading capture and for cheekily thumbing his nose at the law from sun-soaked beaches.

The robbery saw a 15-strong gang hold up a Glasgow-to-London mail train and make off with £2.6 million - a huge sum at the time and about $US80 million today - at a railway bridge north of London.

Biggs played a minor role, but was jailed for 30 years in 1964. After 15 months, he escaped by scaling a prison wall and leaping on to the roof of a furniture van, the ABC reports.

His decades on the run took him to France - where he had plastic surgery - Spain and then Australia.

Ronnie Biggs attending a funeral in March this year.

Ronnie Biggs attending a funeral in March this year. Photo: AFP

However, he settled in Brazil where he flaunted his freedom by frequently being pictured in British newspapers partying.

Detectives travelled to Brazil in 1974 in the hope of catching him, but were thwarted because Biggs by then had his son, Michael, with his Brazilian girlfriend, making him legally untouchable.

Biggs returned to the United Kingdom in 2001 when he was arrested and jailed. He was released in 2009 on compassionate grounds after suffering health problems.