Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Big One: Ronald Biggs and the Great Train Robbery

Fame or Notoriety?

Biggs enjoyed the weeks of attention that followed his release and, despite a 10 p.m. curfew that had been imposed as part of his conditional release and the fact that he was not allowed to work, he enjoyed his new found freedom.  Just weeks later his wife arrived in Rio with their sons and after a difficult few weeks they decided to end their marriage for good and go their separate ways.

The following August Raimunda gave birth to Michael Fernand Nacimento de Castro Biggs, his fourth son.

A year later Raimunda left for Europe to pursue a theatrical career and left Biggs to raise his son.  She was supposed to be gone just three months but returned two and a half years later.

Biggs existed on the money he raised by selling interviews but that never lasted long with two mouths to feed and no other income.  Numerous offers of book and film contracts were made over the years but with the exception of one or two never yielded more than a few thousand pounds.

A month later Biggs was approached by Malcolm McLaren the manager of British punk band The Sex Pistols, and asked to appear with the band while they were in Rio.  Biggs not only appeared with the band, he also wrote a song with them called No One is Innocent that allegedly sold over seven million copies world wide.  According to his own account in Odd Man Out, Biggs received no royalties.

It was this financial desperation that created yet another drama in his life when Biggs agreed to conduct an interview with a reporter who claimed to be from National Geographic.  In his book Odd Man Out Biggs claimed that during the interview he thought something was wrong but agreed to meet the reporter and his wife the following day for lunch.

The date, according to Biggs, was March 16, 1981.  The venue was a restaurant on Urca mountain, a popular tourist attraction next to Rios famous Sugar Loaf mountain.  Biggs arrived at the allotted time of 9.00 p.m. but instead of the reporter he encountered several men who grabbed him from behind and, after a brief struggle, dragged him to a waiting van.

Wrapped inside a bag in the back of a moving vehicle Biggs recognized some of the voices around him.  It was the same men that had tried to kidnap him two years previously by luring him out of Rio to take part in a bogus film shoot.  At the last minute Biggs had been tipped off and notified the authorities.  Now it seemed they were back and hell bent on completing the task. 

The men were all former soldiers from the British Scots Guards regiment, an outfit that prides themselves on their mental and physical toughness.  The leader of this particular crew was a man called John Miller, a rough character known for his outrageous behavior and involvement in dangerous exploits.

After a short trip, the van stopped and Biggs was carried to a jet aircraft and unceremoniously bundled onboard.

After several hours flying time the plane landed and he was carried to a waiting vehicle.  A radio was playing in the background and Biggs recognized the call sign as being from the town of Belem, a seaport in northern Brazil some 2,000 miles from Rio.

He was then driven to another location where he was taken onboard a dinghy and rowed out to a yacht where he was finally released from the confines of the suffocating bag to face his captors.

He discovered that the 62-foot yacht called Nowcani II had been hired by Miller and his men in Antigua in the Caribbean.  It was fully equipped and capable of sailing anywhere in the world. 

Miller told Biggs that rather than hand him over to the authorities, they were going to sell the story of his kidnapping to the highest bidder.  The following day the yacht put to sea, without Miller, and within hours was clear of Brazilian waters. 

With all hope lost of being released by the Brazilian authorities, Biggs had nothing better to do than make the most of the trip which consisted of eating, sleeping, drinking, sun baking and smoking the occasional joint.

Two days later Biggs was shaken awake by one of the men and told to get up on deck.  Biggs, still groggy from sleep and the affects of alcohol, stumbled on deck to see a sleek, gray gunboat pulled up alongside.  After identifying himself to the officer in charge he was told that the yacht had been impounded by the Barbados Coast Guard and would be towed back to Bridgetown.

On his arrival in Barbados he was fingerprinted, examined by a doctor and taken to a police station where he was treated well and given a bed for the night.  The following day he met with a local lawyer who explained that the kidnappers had been released and had sailed the yacht on to Antigua.

A hearing to decide his fate had been called for the following day but his lawyer assured him that he would do everything to make sure he was returned to Brazil.  According to the Biggs account he was treated very well in Barbados and given whatever he wanted, except his freedom.

Biggs (left) & Reynolds
Biggs (left) & Reynolds

With the support of an additional lawyer secured by an author friend, Biggs went before the magistrate Frank King who presided over the proceedings complete with a packed public gallery and a heavy contingent of media representatives from all over the world.  Ronnie was in the public eye once more and loving every minute of it.

After two days of submissions from both prosecution and defense attorneys, magistrate King adjourned the proceedings for another day before giving his decision.  Biggs was to be returned to Great Britain and handed over to the relevant authorities.

He was later moved to a tougher prison on the island to await his deportation.

An appeal against the decision was lodged and within a short period Biggs was back in court contesting the decision.  The appeal was thorough in its preparation and execution and was accepted by a panel of judges who retired to chambers to ponder their verdict. Twenty-five minutes later Biggs was free again!

The media had a field day covering every aspect of the case and its aftermath.  A televised phone link was arranged to milk every ounce of pathos out of an emotional Ronald Biggs placing a daddys coming home call to his son.  By late that afternoon a Lear jet had been arranged, courtesy of two TV networks, to take Biggs back to Rio his luck had allowed him to slip through the cracks again.

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