Fresh plea to free Ronnie Biggs

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The Independent Online

The family of ailing Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs renewed their appeal for his release from prison on compassionate grounds today.

They wrote to Justice Secretary Jack Straw urging him to end "further procrastination" as the 79-year-old's life hangs in the balance.

Doctors caring for Mr Biggs at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital said he has "little hope of recovery".

They have agreed with his son Michael that Mr Biggs will not be resuscitated if his heart stops.

Biggs, who turns 80 next week, was transferred from Norwich Prison to hospital on Tuesday suffering severe pneumonia.

His legal representatives asked the Government to consider releasing him on compassionate grounds and Prison Service officials are now looking at the request.

Four weeks ago Mr Straw refused Biggs' request for parole, saying he was "wholly unrepentant" about his crimes.

Dr Helen May, who is responsible for Mr Biggs' care, said he "remains frail and in poor condition" although he was a "little brighter" yesterday.

In a letter about his condition, she said: "On July 28 Mr Biggs was unresponsive and unable to communicate. I spoke to Michael Biggs, his son, and discussed his father's condition.

"I stated there was little hope of recovery due to his father's frailty and poor nutritional status."

Biggs, from Lambeth, south London, was a member of a 15-strong gang which attacked the Glasgow to London mail train at Ledburn, Buckinghamshire, in August 1963, and made off with £2.6 million in used banknotes.

He was given a 30-year sentence but after 15 months he escaped from Wandsworth prison in south-west London by climbing a 30ft wall and fleeing in a furniture van.

Biggs was on the run for more than 30 years, living in Australia and Brazil before returning to the UK voluntarily in 2001 in search of medical treatment.

He was locked up in Belmarsh high security prison on his return before being moved to a specialist medical unit at Norwich prison.

Earlier requests for release on compassionate grounds were refused in 2006, 2007 and last month.

A Prison Service spokesman said: "We can confirm that an application for the early release on compassionate grounds of a prisoner at HMP Norwich has been received by the public protection casework section in the National Offender Management Service.

"We do not discuss the cases of individual prisoners.

"All applications are processed as soon as we reasonably can and each is carefully considered on its merits against the published criteria."