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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 August, 2004, 06:58 GMT 07:58 UK
Biggs' son calls for compassion
By Margaret Ryan
BBC News Online

As train robber Ronnie Biggs begins his latest appeal for release from prison on compassionate grounds, his son Michael told BBC News Online why he believed his father should go free.

Michael Biggs says he has to be confident that his father's appeal will succeed.

Michael Biggs
Michael Biggs visits his father weekly
He has spent the last three years campaigning for his father's release since the former fugitive arrived back in the UK from Brazil after 36 years on the run.

During that time he has seen his father's appeal against his 30-year-sentence not only dismissed but dubbed "hopeless" and "completely misconceived" by a judge.

And the 29-year-old has fought and won his own battle to gain British citizenship to allow him to stay in the country and be near his father.

Yet for Michael Biggs, the fight on behalf of his father is far from over.

Difficult visits

Given Ronnie Biggs' frail physical condition, his son said it made no sense to keep him locked up in such a high security prison as Belmarsh, in south-east London.

"He can hardly walk, he can't speak, can't drink or eat. He has to be fed by an electric pump".

Ronnie Biggs' solicitors have argued that he has been left partially paralysed by a number of strokes and suffered epileptic seizures and minor heart attacks.

He communicates with his son through a spelling board, made all the more difficult by the 75-year-old's failing eyesight.

Mr Biggs tries to visit him weekly although he did not manage to see his father on his 75th birthday on Sunday - 41 years to the day since the 2.6m infamous heist on a Glasgow-to-London night mail train.

Ronnie Biggs pictured two years ago

He hopes to next see his dad this week but even when he does visit they only have a few hours together under close surveillance.

"My father is a positive person. He believes the Home Office will use some common sense. He hopes for some compassion".

He rejects the argument that his father should stay in prison and serve his term.

"My father doesn't represent any threat to society," he said.

If Ronnie Biggs was released, his son said he would be looked after by his family rather than in a nursing home.

In contrast he puts the cost of keeping his father in jail at as high as 100,000 a year, taking into account the round-the-clock medical attention needed and the fact that he is being held at a top security prison.

At the very least Michael Biggs would like to see his dad transferred to a lower category prison, such as Portsmouth Prison.

"It would be further for me to visit him from North London but at least it would not have such tight restrictions to put up with," he said.

He firmly believes his father's jail term was a "political sentence" and he said that given the government is unprepared to review this, he hopes the argument in favour of his release on compassionate grounds will prevail.

Since winning his British citizenship a few years ago, Mr Biggs now promotes Brazilian parties.

There have been lighter moments since his father's return to the UK, including when his mother Raimunda Rothen married his father two years ago in a private ceremony at the prison.

But Michael Biggs will not be happy until he sees his father's final release from the tight restrictions of life at Belmarsh, although he fears time is running out for the 75-year-old.

He regrets his father's decision ever to return to the UK to face justice, saying he was never in favour of him coming back.

But he added: "It was his decision. I think it was a case of an Englishman wanting to come home and wanting to close that chapter on his life."



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