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1965: Ronald Biggs escapes from jail
Ronald Biggs - a member of the gang who carried out the Great Train Robbery in 1963 - has escaped from Wandsworth prison.

Biggs, 35, escaped by scaling a 30ft wall with three other prisoners at 1505 BST today.

A ladder was thrown over the wall from the outside during the prisoners' afternoon exercise session.

The escapees climbed the ladder and lowered themselves into a waiting van. They were driven away from the prison in three cars.

Loaded shotgun

Every police car in London has been notified and all ports and airports have been alerted.

Biggs is the second of the Great Train Robbers to escape from jail - Charles Wilson is still at large after escaping from Winson Green prison in Birmingham in August last year.

Detective Chief Superintendent Richard Lewis, who is investigating the escape, said the break-out was well prepared and "was engineered without a doubt with collusion inside the prison".

He added this did not suggest prison officers had been involved.

A Home Office spokesperson explained what happened. He said: "At 3.05pm one of the four officers on duty in the yard saw a man's head appear above the outside wall.

"The officer immediately rang the alarm bell and at the same time the man on the wall threw over a rope and tubular ladder.

"The four prisoners immediately made for the ladder and climbed over the top. The prison officers tried to stop them, but were stopped by some of the others in the exercise yard.

"The officers went outside and discovered a van with a platform on top parked against the wall and the ladders secured to the top of the van."

Police said a green Ford Zephyr, involved in the escape, had been found abandoned tonight outside Wandsworth Common railway station.

Police also found a loaded shotgun and a set of overalls inside.

An operations room has been set up inside the prison and the area cordoned off. People living near the prison are being interviewed by police.

Scotland Yard has warned members of the public not to approach any of the men as they may be armed and dangerous.

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Ronald Arthur Biggs
Ronald Biggs had served just 15 months of a 30 year prison sentence

Former Detective Supt. Fewtrell: "I think it's staggered everybody"

In Context
Ronnie Biggs was free for nearly 40 years before he returned voluntarily to Britain from Brazil.

He came back to the UK in 2001 aged 71, impoverished and weakened by a series of strokes to receive free medical treatment.

He was immediately taken to a top-security prison to serve the remaining 28 years of his sentence.

Charlie Wilson was recaptured in Canada in 1968.

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