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August 8, 2009

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Biggs will walk free due to ill health

RONNIE Biggs, whose role in the 1963 "Great Train Robbery" made him one of Britain's most famous criminals, will be freed from jail due to ill health, British Justice Secretary Jack Straw said on Thursday.

Biggs escaped from prison in the 1960s and spent decades as a fugitive in Brazil where his playboy lifestyle and cocky defiance of the British authorities made him a criminal legend.

Now 79, Biggs returned to Britain voluntarily in 2001 and has been in jail ever since, but his declining health has stirred debate about whether he should be released after serving 10 years of a 30-year sentence.

"Mr Ronald Biggs has been informed today of my decision regarding his application for compassionate release on medical grounds," said Straw, reversing a decision a month ago to refuse him parole.

"The medical evidence clearly shows that Mr Biggs is very ill and that his condition has deteriorated recently, culminating in his re-admission to hospital. His condition is not expected to improve," he added.

Along with 11 other gang members, Biggs robbed a Glasgow-to-London mail train in 1963 and stole 2.6 million pounds - about 30 million pounds (US$49 million) in today's money.


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