Don’t Sanctify Ronnie Biggs
Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 19th December, 2013
The death after a prolonged illness of the train robber Ronnie Biggs received massive cov erage in the UK media and even the BBC showed a sickening degree of reverence for the subject. It is often said that one should not speak ill of the dead, but neither should we sanctify villains. The Great Train Robbery of 1963, as it came to be known, was an audacious plot worthy of a crime novel. But one should never forget that in the course of the assault, the train driver, Jack Mills, was beaten over the head with a metal bar. He was never able to work again and died a broken man seven years later. Biggs found extra notoriety by escaping from prison and disappearing off to Brazil, where he fathered a child, thereby managing to keep himself free from extradition. Eventually he did return home, short of funds (whatever happened to all the dosh from the mail train?) and spent time in custody again before being released on compassionate grounds. But I fear too much compassion has been shown to him (and to some other villains of the past, like the Kray twins). Thugs and criminals are precisely that and their doings should not be romanticised. In a novel, their exploits may seem exciting, but in real life, they almost always entail misery for innocent victims.