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Involved in the "Great Train Robbery" of 1963, Ronnie Biggs became one of the world's most famous fugitives. He avoided capture for more than 30 years, living as a fugitive in Brazil and Australia.
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Brazilian authorities refused to extradite Biggs because he had gotten his girlfriend pregnant. They had no interest in expelling the father of a future Brazilian.
Seemingly free, Biggs started to capitalize on his notoriety. He gave interviews and appeared in advertising campaigns. In 1978, Biggs even recorded a song, "No One Is Innocent," with legendary punk rockers the Sex Pistols. He later held special barbecues where he charged tourists a fee to eat with him and have their photo taken with this infamous fugitive. Biggs also sold a T-shirt that read: "I went to Rio and met Ronnie Biggs ... honest." In 1994, he released his best-selling autobiography, Odd Man Out.
Biggs survived two more attempts to bring him back to face justice before deciding to return voluntarily. In 2001, he flew back to England, where he was taken into custody. By this time, he had suffered a series of strokes and his health was in decline. Biggs told the press that he came back because his last wish was "to walk into a Margate pub as an Englishman and buy a pint of bitter." Others speculated that he had come home for free health care.
In all, Biggs had spent 13,068 days on the run. The authorities soon made sure that he wasn't going anywhere. Biggs went to prison until 2009. At the time, he was given a compassionate release because he was in poor health, unable to walk or talk. Biggs gave a press conference two years later to promote his new book, Odd Man Out: The Last Straw. He communicated by writing on a small chalkboard, telling the press that he expected to be remembered as a "lovable rogue." The court of public opinion may come up with another verdict, however. Some, including English justice minister Jack Straw, see him as an unrepentant criminal.
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