Page last updated at 17:27 GMT, Thursday, 6 August 2009 18:27 UK

Timeline: Ronnie Biggs

Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs has led a colourful life, taking part in a record-breaking robbery and becoming a world-famous fugitive from British justice, before eventually returning to the UK of his own free will and subsequently imprisoned. He is now being freed.


8 August: Ronald Arthur Biggs is born in Lambeth, south London.


Joins the RAF aged 18, but dishonourably discharged in 1949


Post Office train
Ronnie Biggs received about 140,000 from the Post Office train theft

8 August: Biggs is one of a gang of 15 masked men who stop the Glasgow to London mail train near Cheddington in Buckinghamshire.

They manage to steal 120 bags of money worth £2.6m - a record haul.

Train driver Jack Mills is beaten with an iron bar during the heist and suffers head injuries.


20 January: The trial of the train robbers begins at Buckinghamshire assizes in Aylesbury.

16 April: Biggs is sentenced to 30 years for his part in the robbery.


8 July: Biggs scales the wall of Wandsworth prison with a home-made rope ladder and drops on to a waiting removal van.

He then flees to Paris, where he has plastic surgery.


He is tracked down to Melbourne, Australia, where he has been living with his first wife, Charmian, and their children.

Before the authorities can catch up with him, he flees to Brazil. The South American country had no extradition treaty with the UK at the time.


Train driver Jack Mills dies of an illness unrelated to the injuries he sustained during the robbery. He never returned to work after being attacked.


Scotland Yard detective Jack Slipper manages to arrest Biggs in Rio de Janeiro after he was tracked down by the Daily Express newspaper.

But Biggs successfully argues against extradition because he has fathered a son, Michael, by his Brazilian girlfriend, Raimunda.


Biggs attends a drinks party on board a British frigate docked in Rio but evades arrest.


He records No One is Innocent for punk rockers the Sex Pistols.


Ronnie Biggs with parrot
Biggs became a minor celebrity in Brazil

24 March: Biggs is rescued by Barbados police after being kidnapped by a gang of ex-British soldiers.

He was reported to have been taken from a bar in Rio de Janeiro, flown to the coast and then smuggled to Barbados by yacht. Barbados police found him in a boat off the coast.

His abductors had planned to return him to Britain but Biggs is extradited back to Brazil.


12 November: Brazil's Supreme Court rejects a new British request to extradite him.

The court rules that the statute of limitations has run out on the robbery as the crime was committed more than 20 years ago.


March: He suffers a stroke and is treated in hospital in Rio de Janeiro.


8 August: He celebrates his 70th birthday with a party in Brazil attended by some of the other train robbers, including Bruce Reynolds, 67, who masterminded the heist.

15 September: Biggs is admitted to hospital in Rio de Janeiro after suffering another stroke.


Biggs on his way to court in London in May 2001
Biggs returned to the UK after e-mailing Scotland Yard

3 May: In an interview with the Sun newspaper, Biggs says he wants to return home. "I am a sick man," Biggs tells the newspaper. "My last wish is to walk into a Margate pub as an Englishman and buy a pint of bitter."

7 May: Biggs returns to the UK voluntarily from Brazil aboard a private jet chartered by The Sun.

He is immediately arrested on his arrival at RAF Northolt in west London and taken to high-security Belmarsh Prison to serve the remaining years of his original sentence.


10 July: He marries Raimunda in Belmarsh prison. This allows their son, Michael, to be granted British citizenship.


26 October: Home Secretary Charles Clarke declines an appeal for his release because his illness is not deemed terminal.


3 July: Biggs is moved from Belmarsh prison to Norwich prison on "compassionate grounds".

30 December: Biggs issues a further appeal asking to be released: "I am an old man and often wonder if I truly deserve the extent of my punishment. I have accepted it and only want freedom to die with my family and not in jail."


13 February: Biggs is admitted to hospital in Norwich suffering from pneumonia.

23 April: The Parole Board meets to consider his application for parole but finds "certain issues" that still need to be clarified before a final recommendation can be made.

It says it is "confident that the information can be made available for a decision to be made in time for Mr Biggs's parole eligibility date in July 2009".

Biggs's son Michael tells the BBC that his father has now suffered three strokes, two minor heart attacks, has skin cancer and cannot walk, or eat, drink or speak properly.

25 June: The Parole Board recommends Biggs's early release, but says he had not undertaken "risk-related work" and did not regret his offending.

28 June: Biggs is diagnosed with a suspected broken hip after being found on the floor of his cell. He also has a chest infection.

1 July: Biggs is denied parole. Justice Secretary Jack Straw says he is "wholly unrepentant" about his actions, and had "outrageously courted the media" while on the run.

Mr Straw also said it was "unacceptable" that Biggs had chosen not to obey the law and had tried to avoid the consequences of his decision.

6 August: Mr Straw decides to free Biggs, citing medical evidence that his condition had deteriorated and he was not expected to recover.

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