Great Train Robber tells court of regrets: Man in shooting case 'flipped his lid after disastrous marriage'

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THE Great Train Robber, Roy James, told a jury yesterday he took no pride in his part in the 1963 crime.

He said: 'It is something I have to live with. I wish I could turn the clock back. It was 30 years ago, it's not an ordinary crime where you can become a nonentity. You have to live with being a train robber, so whatever you do you are a train robber.'

The 58-year-old jeweller had gone into the witness box to explain why he shot his former father-in-law three times and then pistol whipped his former wife, Anthea, with the butt of the gun last May.

Mr James denies attempted murder and wounding. He does not deny he caused the injuries but claims he did not mean to kill or cause serious injury.

Mr James, who served 13 years of his 30-year sentence for the train robbery, said that he had come to the end of his tether and 'flipped his lid' that day. Nicholas Price, QC, for the defence, said that the breakdown of Mr James's 'ill fated and disastrous marriage' to a teenager 30 years younger than him had played a large part in his mental breakdown.

Mr James, listing his previous convictions, said he had not personally been involved in any violence. He described the harsh prison regime, including an eight-month spell in solitary confinement, after the escape of two other train robbers. At one stage he was in a cell where the window had been bricked up.

He deliberately stayed away from the fee-paying private school where he sent his daughters because he did not want his notoriety to affect them. In an opening speech, Mr Price said what the jury had to decide was Mr James's mental state at the time. To help them they would hear of his unhappy childhood and the effect of his sentence on his life.

'You don't have to be a psychiatrist with a string of letters after your name to know something must have gone dreadfully wrong,' said Mr Price as he spoke of the shooting and the luxury pounds 425,000 mock-Tudor home the couple once shared with their two daughters in Surrey.

Mr James told the jury of his devotion to his mother Violet, who died two months before the shooting last year. She had brought him and his elder sister up after they fled from a drunken and violent father when he was 12.

The case continues.