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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 August 2005, 17:06 GMT 18:06 UK
Obituary: Jack Slipper
Close-up Jack Slipper
Jack Slipper or Slipper of the Yard
Jack Slipper, who has died aged 81, was a former head of the Metropolitan Police's Flying Squad, best known for his pursuit of the Great Train Robber, Ronnie Biggs, whom he attempted to arrest in Brazil in 1974.

Six foot three tall and with his trademark pencil moustache, Detective Chief Superintendent Jack Slipper - popularly known as Slipper of the Yard - cut an imposing figure.

Born in west London, after school Jack Slipper worked as an electrician's apprentice until 1941 when he enlisted in the Royal Air Force.

After serving as an electrician with a night fighter squadron in Kent, he was posted to Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), in August 1943, and remained there until 1946.

He joined the Metropolitan Police in 1950 and worked on a number of high-profile cases, including the 8m Bank of America robbery and his proudest achievement, the successful investigation into the murders of three unarmed police officers in London's Shepherd's Bush in 1966.

Scene of the Great Train Robbery of 1963
Scene of the Great Train Robbery of 1963
But it was his exploits in capturing those involved in the 1963 Great Train Robbery, when 2.5m (30m in today's values) was snatched from the Glasgow to Euston mail train - which brought Slipper to popular attention.

After just 15 months in prison, Ronnie Biggs went over the wall of Wandsworth prison in July 1965, changed his appearance with plastic surgery, and fled first to Australia, then to Brazil.

No return from Rio

As he had fathered a child by a Brazilian woman the local authorities allowed Biggs to stay. Jack Slipper vowed to bring him back to the UK.

In January 1974, following a tip-off from the Daily Express newspaper, Detective Superintendent Slipper and his assistant, Detective Sergeant Peter Jones, arrived in Rio de Janeiro.

Ronnie Biggs hugging a Brazilian beauty in Rio
Ronnie Biggs was Slipper's quarry
Slipper's first words to Biggs, whom he met in a beachfront hotel, were: "Long time no see, Ronnie."

Later, Slipper said that he had come very close to persuading Biggs to return: "All he talked to me in those days was 'what's Bermondsey like, what's Kennington like, is that pub there, all that stuff, that is what I miss'.

"I said 'well, come back.' - he said 'we'll wait and see, I've got too long to do'."

Diplomatic incident

According to records released earlier this year, the British Consul in Rio said that Biggs agreed, both verbally and in writing, to go back to Britain.

But the attitude of the Brazilian police hardened and the two policemen flew home empty-handed.

According to an internal Foreign Office memo: "Scotland Yard now realise they were wrong to take upon themselves to send officers to Rio without first informing and consulting the appropriate departments in Whitehall.

Jack Slipper walking down plane steps
Jack Slipper returns from Rio without Ronnie Biggs
"Apparently they didn't even inform the Home Office or the office of the Department of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

"Their reason for not doing so was that they had been given a lead on Biggs' where-abouts by the Express and were under pressure from the latter to act quickly so that the story could be printed."

Eventually, Biggs voluntarily returned to Britain in May 2001. He is currently serving his sentence in Belmarsh prison.

As head of the Flying Squad during the 1970s, Jack Slipper was responsible for the UK's first "Supergrass" trials and the setting up of the Robbery Squad, which gave rise to the current model for the investigation into armed robbery in London.

After retiring from the Met Mr Slipper worked in security consultancy. In 1990, he won 50,000 in libel damages from the BBC, following a film about his bid to catch Biggs which he claimed had made him look incompetent and unprofessional.


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