`Most criminals would have dumped the kid'

A Family Affair

Bruce Reynolds, 68, was one of the men who committed the Great Train Robbery in 1963. He was captured in 1968 and sentenced to 25 years - of which he served 10. Since he has been out he has reunited with Nick's mother, Angela, from whom he was divorced. Nick Reynolds, 37, was six when his father was arrested. Today he is a sculptor and has cast the heads of nine well-known criminals which are on show in the exhibition Cons to Icons at the Tardis Studios, 56 Turnmill St, London EC1


I didn't want children because they mean entanglement and responsibility and as I saw it they would hamper my career as a thief. When Angela told me she was pregnant it was soon after a car accident in which I had faced death and it seemed like destiny that I should have created life instead.

When Nick came along the whole world changed and I had all these feelings I could never have imagined. I decided then that I wanted to give up crime and I knew the only way was to go for the major prize then get out. So we committed the robbery and I took off to Mexico in 1964. We had a fantastic life - the sort millionaires can't have because they have too many responsibilities.

At that time I was imbued with my own stardom - remember The Great Train Robbers had a great deal of press - and I thought I could do anything. I spent all the money and realised I would have to go back to Britain and do another robbery. But I was still convinced I could get away with it and that Nick would always be with us.

As a working-class boy who was evacuated during the war, I never had much education, but I read a lot and I wanted Nick to have a crack education and every chance and I wanted to be close with him throughout his formative years. Of course it didn't work out like that because when I was inside there were a lot of problems with my wife about seeing him. We had our ups and downs for almost six years, it becomes a substitute for sex. But she made sure he came up every month and we had good two-hour visits and I still have some of the cards he sent me at home. His weekly letters were invaluable - you need them when you are feeling isolated and insecure. I tried, in my letters, to put my moral values over to him.

I never felt ashamed of him seeing me in prison but I was straight with Nick. I said this is what I did and this is what you get. He once said to me, "Dad what did you do with all the money you stole?" Then he looked pensive and said: "I know, you bought me all those Action Men didn't you?"

When I came out was probably the toughest period of my life. I had no home and then Nick told me he was going into the navy. I was staying with an old friend, walking the streets at night and wondering whether I wanted to break my parole and just get back inside. I didn't know what I was going to do with my life, except not get back into crime. But I got into a routine and enjoyed seeing Nick at weekends. Our relationship became fraternal. He is my best friend now. We are both aware I am far from being God, but far from being the Devil too. I'm just Dad with my weaknesses and foibles.


I didn't know Dad was a famous criminal on the run. I just knew we had left Britain to live in Mexico and that we kept moving and that we had a great life mixing with some dazzling people. My Dad and I were very close because I was with him all the time and I see that as a measure of his love. Most arch criminals, as a matter of survival, would have dumped the wife and kid, but there he was travelling with this little boy.

I didn't pick up any anxiety until we had to leave Canada in a big rush. I had about 10 Action Men at the time and there was no room in the car for them. I remember thinking `I don't get this.' Then when we were back in England and the police barged in to arrest him and I saw my mother crying, I realised things weren't all right. But even when the police took him I was convinced that, being him, he'd get out in a week.

On our first visit to see Dad in prison we had to go through a labyrinth of passageways and locked doors and there he was in the middle like the Minotaur. Then I realised he wouldn't be able to get out. But in a strange way my life mirrored his. I was sent to boarding school because my Dad had been determined I should have the education he didn't have - that was a different kind of prison. My Dad wrote to me every week, he tried to educate me and keep the bond between us. He sent drawings and lino cuts and cartoons and art postcards - one of these was Magritte's picture of a man with a train coming out of his mouth and the curious thing is that although I didn't remember that card at the time, one of the sculptures I did of Dad for the exhibition shows him with a train coming out his mouth.

He never talked about life in prison when I visited but it shocked me seeing him in a prison uniform and his hair had almost turned white and the worst was that he looked the same as everyone else - before, he had been unique. That put me off crime as much as anything could.

We bolstered each other up talking about what we would do when he came out, but when it was really due to happen I panicked. The most we had had together was two hours, so what happens, I thought, if after a week we can't stand each other. I joined the navy and moved back in with him - I'd left my mother's home when I was 15 because she had someone new and we didn't get on - but only came home at weekends. That worked, it gave us time to get to know each other. It was a difficult time for him, the world had changed a lot and he wasn't the man he was when he went inside. I'd grown up as well of course. So it seemed better that we should try to be mates rather than father and son. We've managed that. We're each other's confidants too.

We went drinking together and I met all sorts of famous criminals - of course that gave me the access I needed when I wanted to do cast heads for my show. The first was Dad's and the whole lot took seven years.

It's been important creating something from his `fame' because I feel I have stopped running away from his past and embraced him with my sculptures. I always knew my Dad was the best but I was never in a position to prove it.

Interviews by Angela Neustatter

Arts and Entertainment
Tate Modern chief Chris Dercon, who will be leaving to run a Berlin theatre company
Arts and Entertainment
Tasos: 'I rarely refuse an offer to be photographed'
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Girls on the verge of a nervous breakdown: Florence Pugh and Maisie Williams star in 'The Falling'
Arts and Entertainment
Legendary charm: Clive Owen and Keira Knightley in 2004’s ‘King Arthur’
FilmGuy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle the legend
Arts and Entertainment
Corporate affair: The sitcom has become a satire of corporate culture in general

TV review

Broadcasting House was preparing for a visit from Prince Charles spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: There are some impressive performances by Claire Skinner and Lorraine Ashbourne in Inside No. 9, Nana's Party spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Glastonbury's pyramid stage

Glastonbury Michael Eavis reveals final headline act 'most likely' British pair

Arts and Entertainment
Ewan McGregor looks set to play Lumiere in the Beauty and the Beast live action remake

Film Ewan McGregor joins star-studded Beauty and the Beast cast as Lumiere

Arts and Entertainment
Charlie feels the lack of food on The Island with Bear Grylls


The Island with Bear Grylls under fire after male contestants kill and eat rare crocodile
Arts and Entertainment
Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Quicksilver and Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch, in a scene from Avengers: Age Of Ultron
filmReview: A great cast with truly spectacular special effects - but is Ultron a worthy adversaries for our superheroes? spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Ince performing in 2006
Arts and Entertainment
Beth (played by Jo Joyner) in BBC1's Ordinary Lies
tvReview: There’s bound to be a second series, but it needs to be braver spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry, the presenters of The Great Comic Relief Bake Off 2015

Arts and Entertainment
A still from Harold Ramis' original Groundhog Day film, released in 1993

Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury


Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas


Arts and Entertainment


  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence