Britain's 'Great Train Robber' Ronnie Biggs Dies

8:45 AM, Dec 18, 2013   |    comments
Ronnie Biggs
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Kim Hjelmgaard, USA TODAY

LONDON - Ronnie Biggs, the notorious British criminal who became famous for taking part in the Great Train Robbery of 1963 - then for evading a global Scotland Yard manhunt for decades after escaping from prison - died Wednesday in London. He was 84.

"Sadly we lost Ron during the night. As always, his timing was perfect to the end. Keep him and his family in your thoughts," his publicist wrote on Twitter. No cause of death was given.

After Biggs' arrest for his role in the heist of a Royal Mail freight train that was traveling between Glasgow and London, and his subsequent escape from Wandsworth prison using a rope ladder, Biggs went on the run for 36 years, spending much of that time in Australia and Brazil.

The audacious robbery is probably the most famous in British criminal history, and it netted its perpetrators around $4 million dollars, which is about $65 million today. It was a record amount at the time. Still, speaking about his share of the money, Biggs told the BBC in 2000: "I squandered it totally - within three years it was all gone."

The train's driver was hit over the head with an iron bar during the incident and died a few years later.

Biggs, who lived for many years in open defiance of the British authorities in Rio - from which he could not be extradited because he had a son with a local woman - returned to Britain in 2001 to face justice, and prison. He eventually was released, controversially, on the grounds of health in 2009 after suffering from pneumonia.

Prior to his return to Britain, Biggs was reported as saying he wanted to return "as an Englishman and buy a pint of bitter."

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