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How the Great Train Robbery Worked


The Great Train Robbery Investigation
Scotland Yard Detective Jack Slipper played a game of cat-and-mouse with Ronnie Biggs for decades.
Scotland Yard Detective Jack Slipper played a game of cat-and-mouse with Ronnie Biggs for decades.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Just two days after the robbery, the Flying Squad was created from the best detectives of Scotland Yard and was charged with finding the criminals behind the Great Train Robbery. Detective Chief Superintendent Tommy Butler, known around Scotland Yard for his professionalism and thoroughness, was assigned to be the squad's chief. Among the team of detectives was Jack Slipper, a tall man with a pencil moustache who would become a household name for his work on the case and his cat-and-mouse chases with Ronnie Biggs.

The Flying Squad's first break in the case came eight days after its investigation began. A suspicious vehicle was reported at an old farmhouse about 30 miles (48.28 km) from the scene of the crime. The old farmhouse -- Leatherslade Farm -- was the same one that the men used as their safe house. Food, sleeping bags and bedding were found in the house, along with bank note wrappers and post office sacks. Fingerprints were found on a bottle of ketchup and on the Monopoly game the men had played with some of the £1, £5 and £10 notes they had stolen.

Within a day of the discovery of the fingerprints, Roger Cordrey was arrested. In a week, Charlie Wilson was arrested in London and police were on to Bruce Reynolds, Jimmy White, Roy James and Buster Edwards. Biggs' fingerprint was found on a bottle of ketchup in the safe house and he was arrested on Sept. 4, 1963.

Ronnie Biggs, Charlie Wilson, Tommy Wisbey, Jim Hussey and Bob Welch were all sent to Bedford prison to await trial. While in prison, they learned that Goody had been questioned but let go for insufficient evidence. However, several weeks later, he, too, was arrested, charged and sent to Bedford.

Three of the suspects arrested in connection with the Great Train Robbery are photographed leaving Linslade court with blankets over their heads.
Three of the suspects arrested in connection with the Great Train Robbery are photographed leaving Linslade court with blankets over their heads.
Central Press/Getty Images

Two months after arriving at Bedford, Biggs was planning his escape but would have to wait -- the group was transferred to Aylesbury prison and security was tight. During their time at Aylesbury, they learned evidence against them was strong and Biggs again began to plot escape. But he was foiled when one of his friends got cold feet.

By December of that year, John Wheater, Brian Fields, John Daly and Roy James were arrested -- James in a spectacular chase across neighborhood rooftops before his capture. Bruce Reynolds evaded arrest until 1969.

Twelve of the 15 robbers were eventually caught and brought to trial. But how were they sentenced, and did any escape? Find out in the next section.

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