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1964: Great Train Robber escapes from jail
A massive manhunt is underway across Britain after one of the so-called Great Train Robbers escaped from Winson Green Prison in Birmingham.

Charlie Wilson, 32, was apparently freed by a gang of three men who broke into the jail in the early hours of the morning.

They are believed to have stolen a ladder from a nearby builders' yard to break into the grounds of a mental hospital next to the prison, and then used a rope ladder to scale the 20ft (6.1 metre) high prison wall.

This is so abnormal that you just cannot cater for it.
F. Castell, Prison Officers' Association
They coshed one of the two patrolling warders on duty and tied him up before opening Wilson's cell door and freeing him.

It is still not known how they got hold of the keys to Wilson's cell. Winson Green is a maximum security prison, and only one member of staff holds the keys to open cells at night.

At a news conference, the secretary of the Prison Officers' Association, F. Castell, said security arrangements at the prison should be enough to meet all normal requirements.

"But," he said, "today's happenings are abnormal. It seems likely that somehow or other a master key has been obtained which allowed these people to effect a simple entry to the prison after scaling the wall.

"This is so abnormal that you just cannot cater for it."

The Home Secretary, Henry Brooke, was on an official trip to the Channel Islands, but returned to London immediately.

He said he was "seriously concerned" by the escape, and ordered an inquiry to begin straight away.

Wilson is described as one of the masterminds behind the robbery last year. In the biggest heist of its kind, over 2.5m was stolen from a Royal Mail train.

Most of the money has never been recovered, and Wilson is believed to be the robber who knows where the missing money stolen in the raid is hidden.

He is reported to have told the police who arrested him two weeks after the robbery: "I don't see how you can make it stick without the poppy [money], and you won't find that."

He served just four months of his 30-year jail sentence before his escape.

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Charlie Wilson
Charlie Wilson was sentenced to 30 years in jail just four months ago

In Context
Charlie Wilson went on the run for four years, and was finally re-captured in Canada and returned to jail in the UK, where he served out the rest of his sentence.

He moved to the Costa del Sol in Spain, and is alleged to have become involved in drugs dealing.

He was shot dead by a hitman on 23 April 1990 as he relaxed by his swimming pool.

A second train robber, Ronnie Biggs, escaped from jail in the following year, and fled to Brazil to evade capture.

He gave himself up voluntarily in May 2001, after 36 years of freedom, due to poor health.

He is now serving out the rest of his sentence in the UK.

The police arrested and jailed 13 of the 15 members of the gang who carried out the Great Train Robbery.

The lost money has never been recovered.

Stories From 12 Aug

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