Great train robber released

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LISA MULLINS: I'm Lisa Mullins, and this is The World. Ronald Biggs is nearly as famous an outlaw in Britain as Robin Hood is, not for stealing from the rich to give to the poor, but for The Great Train Robbery in 1963. Biggs and 15 others took over a mail train, they made off with two million pounds, that 50-million dollars in today's money. A lot of the cash was never recovered. The driver of the train was hit on the head during the robbery, he never recovered from his injuries. Ronnie Biggs' claim to fame was that he escaped prison and managed to evade capture for years. To avoid extradition, he lived in Brazil, in Rio de Janeiro, where he gave interviews to the British news media and regaled tourists with stories about the robbery. Eight years ago, Biggs returned voluntarily to Britain. He was immediately issued with an arrest warrant by British police.

BRITISH POLICE: Ronald Arthur Biggs, I am now going to formally arrest you on the authority of that warrant.

LISA MULLINS: Today, just before his 80th birthday and ailing from pneumonia, he's being released. His son Michael Biggs says he's delighted.

MICHAEL BIGGS: Finally common sense has prevailed. It's, you know, my father has done his time. He's absolutely no threat to society whatsoever. So, all I can say is we are extremely happy at the moment. I'm just very hopeful that my father can have another few months ahead of him in his life, so he can have a little bit of quality time with the family and die with some dignity.

LISA MULLINS: Mike Gray, one of his biographers, saw Ronnie Biggs just a few days ago.

MIKE GRAY: Ronnie just looked as though he was in a coma. He was staring non-stop and you gradually caught a blink of his eye. Apart from that, there was no movement whatsoever.

LISA MULLINS: Another biographer, Tel Currie, said that he was pleased but thinks Biggs should have been released sooner.

TEL CURRIE: My upset on this is that they've let him out to die, which they'd done with Reggie Kray. And then they're letting him out just to look compassionate, and make themselves look like, you know, we're a compassionate government to free him, but they're not. They know that he's not got long left.

LISA MULLINS: During his years living beyond the reach of the law, Biggs became a minor celebrity. He even recorded a song with punk rockers The Sex Pistols.


LISA MULLINS: Ronnie Biggs singing with the Sex Pistols, Biggs was ordered released from prison today.