This Day in Death

12.18.13: “Great Train Robbery” Fugitive Ronnie Biggs – DEAD!

Filed under: Dead —James @ 7:00 am December 19, 2013

RONNIE_BIGGSPictured: crime not paying.


Back when money existed outside of China, people enjoyed having it and exchanging it for products and the occasional ribald favor that their sexually-repressed spouses just couldn’t be talked into, not even as a birthday present. I’m not sure what kind of borderline-illegal act of depravity Ronnie Biggs was definitely hoping to buy with his cut when he agreed to participate in the so-called “Great Train Robbery” of 1963, but I do know two things: 1. Biggs died yesterday, and 2. the deceased can’t sue for libel.

Biggs’ sole responsibility in the heist was to find an engineer to drive the train once it had been successfully hijacked. When, during the job, the engineer revealed that he had no idea how to run the damn thing, the recently-bludgeoned OG engineer was brought back in and forced to follow the criminals’ instructions. That’s why you always wait for the go-ahead to start with the bludgeoning. In fairness, I’ve been stuck behind old Jewish women buying lotto tickets at the gas station. It’s a tough urge to fight.

In July 1965, after serving 15 months, Mr. Biggs scaled the prison wall with a rope ladder and took off in a waiting furniture van. He made his way to the European continent, where he had cosmetic surgery, and eventually to Australia, where his wife and their children joined him. (The couple’s third son was born there.)

In 1969, as Scotland Yard began to close in, he fled again. By 1970, Mr. Biggs had made his way to Brazil, which then had no extradition treaty with Britain. His marriage to Ms. Powell, who remained in Australia with the children, ended in divorce.

Mr. Biggs lived covertly in Rio until 1974, when Detective Chief Superintendent Jack Slipper of Scotland Yard arrived there. Detective Slipper, who had pursued Mr. Biggs around the world for years, was determined to bring him back to Britain, treaty or no treaty.

Yeah, things just kinda kept going like that. Biggs spent decades as a fugitive, outsmarting incompetent British police forces that I have to assume consisted entirely of extras from Fatty Arbuckle shorts. He eventually became ballsy enough to start openly selling merchandise based around the infamous heist, earning a decent living and basking in the universal reverence that apparently comes with being not very useful during a robbery.

Why spend half of your life on the run instead of just serving your sentence and getting on with things? It really comes down to principles: It’s like when you put off taking out the trash for so long that the scent starts provoking rats and stray cats to chew through your wall, and the next thing you know you’re trying to drive a shantytown of hobos out of your kitchen using a controlled burn, and suddenly you find yourself thinking, “this is still way better than taking out the fucking trash like a goddamn conformist.”

The real victims in all of this were, of course, the trains themselves, whose glory days are long behind them now. On the plus side, those abandoned railroad tracks became a godsend to thousands of introspective singer-songwriters who needed something to pose next to for publicity photos when they couldn’t find a highway marker sign. Man, who knows where those guys might end up in this crazy world!



Source: The NY Times

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