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Rainham author Mike Gray speaks of sadness at death of friend the Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs after his death at 84

18 December 2013
by Nicola Jordan

Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs, pictured in 2001. AP PhotoAlastair Grant

Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs, pictured in 2001. AP Photo/Alastair Grant

A Rainham author has paid a heartfelt tribute to his friend Ronnie Biggs, who has died today aged 84.

Mike Gray, who has written four books on the notorious Great Train Robber, had kept in regular contact with him and last visited him at his care home in north London earlier this year.

The 56-year-old said: "Ronnie did not have a bad bone in his body. Even the copper who arrested him said his criminal CV was laughable.

"He only went along because he was friends with Bruce Reynolds, but nobody else had ever heard of him.

"He was by his own admission the tea boy who became the legend due to the world media.

"He always regretted the injury to the train driver. Only yesterday I sent him a Christmas card.

"This is a sad day for me and his family."

Mike's unusual relationship with Biggs started as a nine year-old boy standing outside Wandsworth Prison waiting for his father, who was a warder, to finish his shift.

He remembers seeing a red removal van alongside the prison's towering walls on that day in July 1965.

Only minutes before, Britain's most famous escapee had scaled those walls on a rope ladder, jumped onto the van's roof and made his getaway in a car to begin 36 years on the run.

After Britain's failed attempt to extradite Biggs from Brazil in 1974, Mike found out his secret address and wrote to him explaining their chance connection.

Mike Gray has written several books about his friend Ronnie Biggs

Mike Gray has written several books about his friend Ronnie Biggs

To his amazement, the fugitive responded triggering a friendship which lasted to Biggs' death in the early hours of this morning after years of ill health.

Mike's latest book The Ronnie Biggs Quiz Book has just been published.

It coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Great Train Robbery in 1963 - a heist that netted the gang an unprecedented £2.6 million in cash - worth about £55million today - on the London to Glasgow mail train.

Biggs was jailed two years later - but escaped - before returning to the UK voluntarily in 2001.

What do you think? Was Ronnie Biggs a loveable rogue - or hardened criminal? Join the debate below.

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