Ronnie Biggs pleads: Let me out so I can die with my family

Great Train Robber, in jail after 35 years on the run, is now partially paralysed, and doctors back his release

Ronnie Biggs, the Great Train Robber, made a desperate appeal for his effort to get parole. In a statement issued to The Independent on Sunday, Biggs, 78, asked to be released from jail to die with his family: "I am an old man and often wonder if I truly deserve the extent of my punishment. I have accepted it and only want freedom to die with my family and not in jail. I hope Mr Straw decides to allow me to do that.

"I have been in jail for a long time and I want to die a free man. I am sorry for what happened . It has not been an easy ride over the years. Even in Brazil I was a prisoner of my own making," he said.

Biggs, who returned from Brazil in 2001 after 35 years on the run, is serving the 30-year sentence he was given in 1964 for his role in the theft of 2.6m a record haul at the time. A series of strokes has rendered him partially paralysed and unable to speak, and he is fed through a tube. He can however, walk unassisted and is mentally alert and in good humour.

His early release application forms seen by The Independent on Sunday show that his prison governor, James Shanley, has vetoed his request despite clearance from doctors, who say he is physically incapable of committing further crimes, and his probation officer, who is satisfied with his 34-year-old son Michael's plan to admit him to a private nursing home in Barnet, north London.

But Mr Shanley, the governor of category-C Norwich prison, where Biggs receives 24-hour care, has kept him behind bars on the grounds that he is not about to die.

The doctor who compiled the medical report wrote: "Mr Biggs is unlikely to be capable of committing further criminal acts, particularly of a physical or violent or sexual nature."

His probation officer described how Biggs used an alphabet card to talk about his family, visiting and football, but never the 1963 train robbery that gained his notoriety. Referring to Michael Biggs's plans for his father, he said: "These arrangements would seem suitable in terms of supervision, oversight and, as I understand, medical support."

But Mr Shanley, in answering to a question on the form "Do you consider that the prisoner should be released early?", writes: "No. There is little evidence that Mr Biggs is likely to die imminently and I do not think that he is incapacitated enough to not cope with the prison environment. HMP Norwich is able to adequately care for Mr Biggs."

Earlier this year Biggs, who has submitted several requests for release, was transferred to Norwich from the medical wing at London's high-security Belmarsh prison, where he has stayed since his return to the UK.

He is not eligible for parole until 2010. In an earlier statement, he apologised for his crime, claiming: "There is no honour to being known as a Great Train Robber. My life has been wasted."

His legal representative, Giovanni di Stefano, wrote to Jack Straw, the Secretary of State for Justice: "It is not the role of the Prison Service to provide nursing care but a role that should be for the National Health Service or, as it is conceded that Mr Biggs is clearly of no risk to anyone including himself, he should be released on compassionate grounds."

The Home Office declined to comment last week on Mr Biggs's request.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
England's women celebrate after their 3rd place play-off win against Germany
Women's World CupFara Williams converts penalty to secure victory and bronze medals
Arts and Entertainment
Ricardo by Edward Sutcliffe, 2014
artPortraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb go on display
News
newsHillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'