Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Big One: Ronald Biggs and the Great Train Robbery

A Taste of Freedom

Within weeks the gang were sent to various prisons across the country to begin their sentences.  While most of the gang were sent to Brixton prison, Biggs was taken first to Lincoln prison and later to Wandsworth, Britains answer to Alcatraz.

According to his account in Odd Man Out, Biggs began thinking about escape from the first day he was there.  On August 12, 1964, while Biggs was still thinking about it, Charlie Wilson made good his own escape from Winson Green prison in Birmingham with the assistance of three strangers.

Following Wilsons successful escape, the rest of the gang, including Biggs, were placed under close surveillance or Special Watch.

Although strict, the new restrictions still allowed for regular exercise periods and it was during one of these that Biggs began to conspire with two fellow inmates, Paul Seabourne and Eric Flower to plan an escape.

While Eric was serving 12 years for robbery, Pauls release after a four year stretch was imminent and would make him an able accomplice on the outside.

The plan was simple enough.   On the day in question, Biggs and Flower made sure they took their exercise period together and shortly after 3 p.m. on Thursday, July 8, 1965, a van pulled up next to the perimeter wall, rope ladders were thrown over and, while two other inmates distracted the guards, Biggs and Flower climbed the wall where Seabourne waited to assist them down onto the roof of a specially converted removals van and into a waiting get away car.  The only complication was that several other inmates took the opportunity to escape as well meaning seven people instead of an expected four were crammed into the getaway car.

Ronald Biggs wanted poster
Ronald Biggs wanted poster
 

A few miles away, they exchanged vehicles and the other inmates went their separate ways while Biggs, Seabourne and Flower went to a pre-arranged hideout.

Seabourne would later be caught and returned to prison to serve four and a half years for his part in the escape while Biggs and Flower were hidden in various parts of the country for several months before being smuggled across the English Channel to Antwerp in Belgium where, in exchange for a large amount of money they were given new passports, clothes and facial reconstruction to mask their appearance.  The latter, described by Biggs in Odd Man Out as, so painful that I didnt think I would survive it.

By Christmas Biggs had healed from his surgery and was on his way to Sydney, Australia, traveling under the name Terrence Furminger.  He would later reunite with his family and Eric Flowers and spend several years hiding out and adapting to their new surroundings.

They were still living and working in Australia in 1968, when they received the news that Bruce Reynolds, Charlie Wilson and Jimmy White had been arrested and each given long terms in jail.  Buster Edwards had given himself up to police two years before which left Biggs as the only member of the gang still at large.

They spent the rest of the year and most of 1969 in Australia but word had filtered back to England to suggest that Biggs and Flowers may be hiding out in Melbourne, Victoria.  Soon after a police task force was formed to investigate.

With the chance of detection and recapture now very real Biggs and his wife decided that they should split up, he to leave the country and she and the kids to stay in Australia and face the consequences.

Within days Biggs was hiding out in a mountainous region of Victoria while Charmaine stayed in Melbourne.

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