Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Big One: Ronald Biggs and the Great Train Robbery

Before the Courts

Bruce Reynolds
Bruce Reynolds
 

The following day Biggs appeared before a magistrate and was remanded into custody.  He was sent to Bedford prison in Bedfordshire to await trial.  Also at Bedford were Charlie Wilson, Tommy Wisbey, Jim Hussey and Bob Welch.  After they had compared stories, they were certain that they had been fitted for the crime after being named as associates of Bruce Reynolds by someone unknown to them.

This theory was quickly dispelled when Charmaine Biggs arrived at the prison with startling news that she had gleaned from a friend with connections inside Scotland Yard.  The reason Biggs and his friends had been arrested was because their fingerprints had been found at the farmhouse.  More depressing still was the fact that the prints in question had been lifted off a ketchup bottle, beer bottles and several Monopoly game pieces, items that they could have easily taken with them.

Sometime later they learned from the news that Gordon Goody had been picked up and questioned but hadnt been charged due to insufficient evidence.  He later visited them in prison and told them that Reynolds had arranged for a solicitor to represent them.  Some weeks later, after a game of cat and mouse with the police, he too was arrested, charged and joined his associates inside.

By November Biggs was thinking about escape but before he could make any serious attempts all five of the gang were transferred to Aylesbury prison in Buckinghamshire and kept together in the hospital wing which had been specially cleared to house them.  Security was stepped up and any thoughts of escape were shelved for the time being.

Within days of the move, they learned that John Wheater, the solicitor who had negotiated the sale of the farm to Reynolds, had been charged and imprisoned awaiting trial.  His chief clerk and Goody associate, Brian Fields, had also been charged. 

The next to be picked up was Reynolds brother-in-law, John Daly, followed in quick succession by Roy James who had led the police on a merry chase across neighboring rooftops prior to his arrest.  They were both sent to Aylesbury.

After several weeks security was relaxed and the gang members were allowed to spend longer periods of time together.  The main item of discussion, apart from their arrests, was the pending trial.  Having learned from their solicitor that the evidence against them was strong, meaning long prison terms for most of them, the talk again turned to escape.   In Odd Man Out, Biggs describes how the men befriended a guard and, in exchange for cash, allegedly obtained certain items of contraband to aid them in their escape.  The main item that was smuggled in was a key blank that they were able to file down and use to unlock their cells and access doors.

The plan progressed well but was terminated at the last minute when Bill Boal, one of the key players who had been arrested for helping Roger Cordrey hide his share of the loot, got cold feet and tipped off a guard.  Within hours their cells was searched for contraband and any suspicious items confiscated.  The guards were changed, security was tightened and all privileges, including outside visits and close communication between prisoners, were cancelled which meant the entire group were in permanent lockdown.

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