Notorious Great Train Robber, Ronnie Biggs, has announced that he is to return the proceeds gained from the 1963 multi-million pound train heist in an attempt to restore public confidence in the once honourable criminal classes. Biggs, currently serving a sentence in Norwich prison after returning to the UK in 2001, has described the manner by which he came into the money as ‘an honest mistake’, and has called for a change in the rules which are making morally-upright criminals look like money-grabbing cheats.
‘I didn’t realise I was doing anything wrong,’ said the ailing 79-year-old today in a prepared statement. ‘The train stopped and everyone just jumped on the wagon, so I assumed it was totally on the level. But I tell you, as soon as I checked the law some 36 years later and found that I may have been in the wrong, I couldn’t have been more embarrassed. I turned myself in straight away. I just hope that by giving the money back now it’s not too late to change the public’s opinion of me.’
After initially being convicted for the Great Train Robbery in what he thought was a gross miscarriage of justice, Biggs escaped from prison in 1965 and remained on the run until he discovered his mistake in 2001. Although he insists that at the time of the robbery he stuck to the gang’s rules 100%, he has admitted that he felt ‘uncomfortable’ claiming so much money. And he has now called for a complete overhaul of the system which forced him to acquire second, third and fourth homes in different countries just to avoid being apprehended by the police and returned to prison.
Yet despite getting his comeuppance, Biggs remains nostalgic for a time when robbers had standards. ‘There was a time when being a criminal meant something, when you were looked up to by the community,’ he lamented today. ‘But this modern generation of criminals is completely lacking in moral fibre. They’ll take anything, and it’s decent everyday people who are left to foot the bill.’
Now in declining health, Biggs is hopeful that he will soon be granted early release in anticipation of a surge in demand for prison places. ‘But if not, I ain’t sharing my cell with no thief,’ he spat today.