Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Big One: Ronald Biggs and the Great Train Robbery

Chasing a Buck

It wasnt long before the media spotlight dimmed and Biggs returned to the harsh reality of living without an income yet again, especially after he totaled the bills that had amassed while he had been away.  The answer to his financial woes came from an unexpected quarter, his 6-year-old son Michael.

During the media circus that followed the kidnapping, Michael had been interviewed on television and did an impromptu song and dance routine that a friend of his fathers had taught him.  After the show the moment was forgotten until a few weeks later when a CBS record executive contacted Biggs with a view to making a record with Michael and two other local kids.

A contract was signed, the children were assembled and cut their first recording.  Under the name of the Magic Balloon Gang the group was an instant success with a gold record guaranteed on their first attempt.  Touring followed and yet more success and the money rolled in.  Biggs reveled in the role of stage-door dad and was given special permission from the Brazilian government to tour with his son.

Biggs made enough money to live on and buy an apartment in his sons name with enough left for a reasonable nest egg for Michael.  Five years later the magic left the balloon gang and the group was disbanded.

Biggs later invested much of the money in a bar but it eventually went broke taking most of their savings down with it.  Before long Biggs was back selling his story to anyone that would listen but as the years progressed he found the audience dwindling.

Odd Man Out
Odd Man Out

His saving grace came about when an upsurge in tourism turned him into a walking tourist attraction as more and more tour operators cashed in on The Biggs Experience, as it came to be called.  A steady stream of tourists could visit Ronnie at home, enjoy his hospitality, have photographs taken and autographs signed by him all for $50!  Biggs relates in Odd Man Out how he hit on the idea of printing tee shirts bearing the legend I met someone who went to Brazil and met Ronnie Biggs honest.  According to Biggs, They sold like hotcakes and still do.

The years came and went and so did the tourists, the authors, the filmmakers and the promises of riches but Biggs always seemed to fall just short of cashing in on his notoriety to any great degree.  Despite the thousands of pounds he made over the years there were always bills to pay and food to put on the table. 

Even though Biggs lived out most of his life free from incarceration for a crime he freely admits to, his life has been less than idyllic because it lacked the one thing that most people in the western world take for granted their freedom.

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