Ronald Arthur “Ronnie” Biggs (8 August 1929 – 18 December 2013) was an English thief, known for his role in the Great Train Robbery of 1963, for his escape from prison in 1965, for living as a fugitive for 36 years and for his various publicity stunts while in exile. In 2001, he returned to the United Kingdom and spent several years in prison, where his health rapidly declined. Biggs was released from prison oncompassionate grounds in August 2009 and died in a nursing home in December 2013.
In need of a loan to fund a deposit on a house purchase for his family, Biggs approached Reynolds, who offered him a place on the proposed train robbery. Biggs was tasked by Reynolds to find a suitable engine driver to move the train forwards to the unloading point, and he recommended Stan Agate, known on the gang as “Pop” due to his age.
Having told his wife that he was off logging with Reynolds in Wiltshire, on the night of the raid Biggs was a passenger in the stand-by getaway car, and only saw the haul once the gang returned to Leatherslade farm. Stopping the mail train from Glasgow to London in the early hours of 8 August 1963 (Biggs’s 34th birthday), engine driver Jack Mills was coshed with an iron bar in the course of the robbery. As Agate had never driven a diesel engine, the gang forced the injured and bleeding Mills to move the engine and mail carriages forward to the bridge chosen as the unloading point.
Having unloaded 120 of the 128 mailbags from the train within Reynolds’ alloted timetable, and returned to their hideout at Letherslade Farm, various sources show that the robbery yielded the participants £2.6 million; Biggs’s share was £147,000. With their timetable brought forward due to the enclosing police investigation, Biggs returned home on the following Friday with his stash in two canvas bags.
After an accomplice failed to burn down Leatherslade Farm as agreed to clean it for evidence, Biggs’s fingerprints were subsequently found by the Metropolitan Police investigation team on a ketchup bottle. Three weeks later, he was arrested along with 11 other members of the gang in South London. In 1964, nine of the 15-strong gang including Biggs, were jailed for the crime; most received sentences of 30 years.