Steven Gerrard and eight other close shaves

Posted by , 31 July 2009

Ronnie Biggs

Who’s the lucky fella? Lambeth-born carpenter-cum-criminal involved in the Great Train Robbery of 1963.

What did he do? Having brazenly nicked £2.6million from a mail train, Biggs was caught by the police and locked up. But he managed to escape from Wandsworth prison using - get this - a rope ladder. He fled to Paris, underwent plastic surgery and pissed off, via Australia, to a life of sunshine, partying and local celebrity in Rio. Good times.

How the hell did he get away with that? The law was on his side. Scotland Yard detectives tracked Biggs to Brazil, but he couldn’t be extradited because his nightclub dancer girlfriend was pregnant, and Brazilian law isn't cool with the parents of little Brazilians being expelled. Result.

Is he sorry? Biggs returned to the UK in 2001, citing a desire to “walk into a Margate pub as an Englishman and buy a pint of bitter”. He was immediately re-imprisoned, and, despite deterioating health in the intervening years, consistently refused parole. But Justice Secretary Jack Straw finally let him out on compassionate grounds (or: to die) in August 2009. Straw says Biggs is “wholly unrepentant”. And he's probably right.


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