On this day in history : 24th March 1981 – Coast Guards from Barbados ‘rescue’ Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs after his kidnapping from a bar in Rio de Janeiro….

Biggs had been given a 30 year jail sentence for his part in the Great Train Robbery…. He had served just two years before managing to escape from Wandsworth Prison and fleeing to Brazil – which has no extradition treaty with the United Kingdom….

8th July 1965 Ronnie Biggs escapes from Wandsworth Prison – Image credit: Bradford Timeline via Flickr

On the 18th of March 1981 Biggs had a pre-arranged meeting with some men in a bar in Rio – they had contacted him on the pretext of making him into a film star…. In reality they were British ex-soldiers working for a security company – rather than the film crew they claimed to be…. The mastermind behind the plot was 52-year-old former Scots Guard John Miller….

Biggs was bundled into a car and taken to the coast where a yacht was waiting…. With him drugged, bound and gagged the boat set sail – the idea was to take him to Barbados, where he would be handed over to the authorities…. However, the yacht ran into mechanical difficulties 7 miles off of Barbados and Biggs and his 5 kidnappers were left stranded…. They had to be towed into Port by the Barbados Coast Guard Service….

After their identities had been checked and confirmed the kidnappers were released…. Miller refused to reveal who had paid for the ‘citizen’s arrest’ of Biggs….he claimed it was just a paid job – that had been completed…. Biggs was held in jail at the request of the immigration authorities whilst Britain attempted to secure his extradition…. At the same time Brazil were asking for him to be returned there….

Ronnie Biggs – Buckinghamshire Constabulary mug-shot 1964. Fair use

It was a legal loop-hole which allowed Biggs to make his escape yet again…. It turned out that Barbados had no valid extradition treaty with the UK either….and Ronnie Biggs was able to return to Brazil….

One thought on “On this day in history….24th March 1981

  1. Hi Hazel,

    I found this post really interesting. If we had managed to extradite Ronnie Biggs in 1981 and he had been reimprisoned in one of our jails, would his sentence have been lengthened to punish him for escaping and making a mockery of our justice system? It would have felt wrong if the authorities had just allowed him to resume his sentence without punishing him for breaking out of prison and going on the run. Do you think that a judge or the home secretary would have increased the length of his prison sentence (or given him an additional punishment) to send a warning to other offenders that anyone attempting to escape from prison would be brought to account?



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