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Last Updated: Friday, 8 August, 2003, 12:54 GMT 13:54 UK
Talk marks Great Train Robbery
Bruce Reynolds in the 1960s
The robbery was masterminded by Bruce Reynolds
The mastermind behind the Great Train Robbery will mark the 40th anniversary of the heist by returning to the scene of the crime.

Bruce Reynolds, now 71, has been invited to speak at an exhibition based on the crime at Oakley, Buckinghamshire.

The village is close to Leatherslade Farm where his gang hid out after the heist.

Reynolds's status, along with memorabilia from police archives, is being used as a fundraising tool to buy a new roof for the village's hall.

Career thief Reynolds assembled at least 15 hardened criminals for the job.

The plan was to hold up the night mail train from Glasgow to Euston as it passed through the Buckinghamshire countryside close to Cheddington.

It was carrying huge numbers of used bank notes.

As the gang waited Reynolds lit a Montecristo No 2 cigar, believing that everything had been planned down to the smallest detail but a series of blunders followed.

The Great Train Robbers made off with 2.5m after storming the train on 8 August, 1963

The train appeared shortly after 0300 BST and stopped at a set of signals the gang had switched.

The driver Jack Mills got out to see what was going on and was coshed over the head and knocked senseless.

Malcolm Fewtrell, the police officer who led Buckinghamshire CID at the time, said: "These were dedicated professional criminals and it was all organised but it could have failed at any time.

"They stopped the train at the false signals but they couldn't unload it because it was a sheer drop.

"They had brought along their own crooked driver to take it where they needed to but when they sat him in the train he couldn't drive it.

"After hitting Mills so hard they then had to drag him back and make him drive it.

"Mills had a nasty head wound and if he had been a bit more injured the whole thing would have failed then."

Picture of Monopoly board used by the gang
The gang played Monopoly in a their hide-out using real money

The train was driven a mile-and-a-half to Bridego Bridge and the gang unloaded a total of 2.6m in used notes, which would be worth around 40m today.

The cash was taken by lorry 25 miles to Leatherslade Farm.

A crooked solicitor had been used to buy the farm and the gang planned to hide there until the heat died down.

At the exhibition on Saturday - a day after the 40th anniversary - he will meet up with retired policeman John Wolley, who uncovered the gang's bolt hole at Leatherslade Farm.

"It's a bit like being told 'Come back, all is forgiven'," Reynolds said.

"The lorry used to move the cash and my old Lotus Cortina, which I did most of the reconnaissance in, will be there.

Bruce Reynolds (a recent picture)
Bruce Reynolds, 71, has been invited to talk near the farm

"I was very surprised to be asked back - 40 years ago it wouldn't have happened - but it's part of history and people there recognise that I was part of their history."

It was always with one eye on the history books that Reynolds planned the so-called "crime of the century".

He said he bears no grudge against the police. "I was a career thief and I suppose there is grudging respect on both sides.

"As far as I was concerned when you were caught you were caught, that was it. I've never had any animosity about that."

Mr Wolley will also give a talk at Oakley.

Patricia Fennell, a member of the village hall sub-committee, said interest in the event had been huge.

"It's because it's the 40th anniversary and this is the village where the gang was first arrested and hid out," she said.

"We decided because of the connection to hold an exhibition and a talk on the event."

And added: "Not only will there be talks but we also have memorabilia from police archives and have the vehicles which were used at the time, a lorry and a Landrover."

Money raised from the tickets, which cost 2.50, will go towards the 34,000 needed to replace the roof.

However, Victim Support said situations like this can bring back memories for victims and their families.

A spokeswoman said it is always best to contact the victims to ensure they are not upset.




SEE ALSO:
Biggs' son challenges sentence
28 Mar 02  |  England
Great heists of our time
18 Feb 02  |  UK News


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