Britain's Great Train robber Biggs retires from spotlight

17th November 2011, Comments 0 comments

Ronnie Biggs, infamous for his role in Britain's 1963 Great Train Robbery, made his last public appearance in London on Thursday where he launched an updated version of his autobiography.

At his first ever press conference in Britain, Biggs, 82, who is unable to walk or talk after suffering a series of strokes, announced his retirement from public life.

Wearing a dark suit with an Arsenal Football Club scarf and skull and crossbones braces, a frail-looking Biggs was brought to the press conference in a wheelchair, guided by his son Michael, who spoke on his father's behalf.

"This is his last press appearance, he's really retired from public life now," Michael Biggs said.

Ronnie Biggs was part of a 15-strong gang that held up a mail train in the south of England in 1963, making off with almost £2.6 million -- worth around £40 million today (47 million euros, $63 million).

He was jailed for 30 years for his part in the crime, but escaped from Wandsworth prison in London after serving just 19 months of his sentence.

Biggs subsequently fled Britain, using fake passports and undergoing plastic surgery to avoid detection, ending up in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

After 35 years on the run, Ronnie Biggs returned to Britain in 2001 to serve the remainder of his prison sentence. He was released on compassionate grounds in 2009 after his health deteriorated dramatically.

Calling himself a "poster boy" for Britain's National Health Service, Biggs said in a statement that he planned "to hang on for a while yet" and was setting himself targets to reach before he died, including seeing the launch of his updated autobiography.

Michael Biggs said "Odd Man Out: The Last Straw", was his father's opportunity to set the record straight.

"Clear hardcore misconceptions (about the robbery) have come over the years -- like what happened with the money, who committed violence.

"He was not ever proud of being a criminal but proud of the way he lived his life afterwards, he was rehabilitated. My father was punished enough for the crime he committed."

Communicating through a specially designed poster, Ronnie Biggs said he was glad he came back to Britain and was now at peace with everything he had done in his life.

© 2011 AFP

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