Biggs does his time on live satellite link: Rhys Williams tunes in as a Great Train Robber plugs his autobiography from the safety of Rio

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The Independent Online
RONNIE BIGGS sat in a Rio television studio, sun-tanned, smiling, and about as subtle as Mike Tyson's pillow talk. 'Screw Buster Edwards,' he said to his fellow train robber's suggestion that he should come back to Britain and serve time.

Biggs, 64, failed decorator and failed thief, should be just coming to the end of a 30-year prison sentence for his part in the Great Train Robbery. Instead, he hopped over Wandsworth Prison wall in 1965, and fled first to Australia and then Brazil.

Yesterday, via a live satellite link between Rio de Janeiro and the Groucho Club in London, he was plugging his autobiography Odd Man Out.

A kind of mythology has grown up around Biggs's flight from British justice, romantically elevating him to the status of 'lovable rogue'. For the record, Biggs was a last-minute addition to the gang which stole pounds 2.6m from the Glasgow to Euston mail train in August 1963 and beat the driver, Jack Mills, senseless. Mr Mills was unable to work again and died seven years later. Jack Slipper, the Detective Chief Superintendent who was in charge of the case, politely inquired as to how Biggs felt about Mr Mills.

'It was true that Jack Mills was attacked and that was lamentable,' Biggs said. 'There is a coroner's report after he died which establishes quite clearly that the blow he received during the Great Train Robbery had nothing to do with his death.'

And the small matter of 29 years still owed to Her Majesty for the robbery? 'I would say over the last 30 years that I've maintained an honest life, I've done nothing against the law. I fully believe I have wiped the slate clean.

'If they say prison is to rehabilitate a person then, to my satisfaction, I am totally and completely rehabilitated.'

(Photograph omitted)