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Jack Straw: 'Why I freed Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs'
BLACKBURN MP Jack Straw said sending Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs back to jail on his return to Britain after 36 years on the run was the right decision.
The notorious 84-year-old criminal died yesterday at the Carlton Court Care Home, in East Barnet, north London.
He could not speak, and had difficulty walking after strokes.
Mr Straw also said releasing Biggs because of terminal illness in August 2009 was ‘correct at the time’, even though he lived another four years.
The 1963 ‘Great Train Robbery’ involved a 16-strong masked gang escaping with £2.6million after stopping the Glasgow to London mail train, near Cheddington, Buckinghamshire. The haul, equivalent to £40million in today’s money, was the biggest at the time in the UK.
Train driver Jack Mills, who never worked again and died in 1970, was struck over the head. Ringleaders, including Biggs, were given 30-year prison sentences, but he escaped from Wandsworth prison in 1965, living in Australia and Brazil.
In May 2001, he returned to the UK seeking medical help, but was immediately returned to prison by Mr Straw to serve the remaining 28 years of his sentence, in one of his last acts as Home Secretary.
The Blackburn MP, later Justice Secretary, released Biggs on compassionate grounds in 2009 after he got pneumonia following a series of strokes.
Mr Straw said: “Sending Biggs back to prison when he returned in 2001 was the right decision. He was a criminal who should not have been rewarded for escaping and, as he admitted, living the high life. If he had not escaped, he would have served his sentence and been free by 2001.
“Releasing him on comp-assionate grounds in 2009 was correct at the time, although I initially refused to do so. Prognosis of how long people with terminal illness are going to live is very difficult. I took the decision on medical and prison service advice.”
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