Great Train Robber must wait on parole bid

Britain Great Train Robber
"Great Train Robber" Ronnie Biggs, seen here in Rio de Janeiro in 1997, says he is ailing and should be released to spend his final years with his son.Renzo Gostoli / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

A parole board adjourned Thursday without deciding whether to release Ronnie Biggs, an ailing veteran of the "Great Train Robbery" who wants to spend his final years with his son.

The Parole Board of England and Wales said a decision should be reached by July, when Biggs would have served the 10 years necessary to qualify for parole.

Biggs, 79, is arguing that his severe health problems mean he is no longer a threat. He received a 30-year sentence for his role in the fabled train caper. His bid for freedom may be weakened by the more than three decades he spent abroad after escaping from prison in 1965.

Biggs was part of a gang who stopped a mail train on the Glasgow-to-London line on Aug. 8, 1963, making off with more than 125 mailbags jammed with cash. Their take amounted to roughly 2.6 million pounds, or about $3.8 million.

The train driver was severely beaten and left unconscious.

Biggs and other members of the gang were eventually tracked down, and he was convicted in January 1964. He escaped from Wandsworth Prison in south London in 1965 after serving less than two years of a 30-year sentence.

He fled to France, where he had plastic surgery to alter his appearance, and went through Spain, Australia and Panama before settling in Brazil.

Fortune turns
In Brazil, he liked to be photographed with a beer in his hand and beautiful women at his side for newspaper and magazine articles about his flamboyant lifestyle.

But the fun ended in 2001 when Biggs notified Scotland Yard by e-mail that he was ready to return to Britain and turn himself over to authorities.

His health was already fading and the man who got off a private jet to surrender to authorities seemed broken and weak. He was too ill to speak.

After a brief medical exam and court hearing, he was put back in prison. He did not appear at the hearing Thursday.

His son, Michael Biggs, said his father has had several strokes and heart attacks and also has skin cancer and other ailments.

"He can't walk 10 feet and he can't speak and he is fed with a tube," said Michael Biggs. "He's not capable of re-offending and he's done his time. It's very clear he is no threat to society."

The final decision will be made by Justice Secretary Jack Straw based on the parole board's recommendation.

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