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FREE RONNIE BIGGS
FREE RONNIE BIGGS
'Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel?'
Nick Reynolds (aka Harpo Strangelove, harmonica player player for Alabama 3 Acoustic) was interviewed at Jamm earlier today by Channel 4, about Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs.
Nick's father Bruce Reynolds was a member of the 15 strong gang which attacked the Glasgow to London mail train as it passed through Buckinghamshire in August 1963, making off with £2.6m in used banknotes.
The participants were sentenced to 30 years each, but after 15 months Ronnie Biggs escaped from Wandsworth prison in south west London by climbing a 30ft wall and fleeing in a furniture van. He was on the run for more than 30 years, living in Spain, Australia and Brazil, before returning to the UK voluntarily in 2001, knowing that he would face immediate arrest and imprisonment.
Earlier this month, Justice Secretary Jack Straw refused his bid for parole.
A parole board recommended his release but Mr Straw personally intervened to block his release, saying Biggs remained "wholly unrepentant" for his crimes.
Biggs, who is 79 years old, is currently in a critical condition in hospital, being treated for pneumonia.
His son Michael said today:
"It's the worst he's ever been. I have never seen him this weak," adding that doctors had indicated they may not resuscitate his father should his heart stop.
His family say he has suffered three strokes, hip, pelvis and spine fractures, and that he is guarded by three police officers despite being unable to eat, speak or walk.
His lawyers have now formally lodged an emergency application for his early release on compassionate grounds.
Biggs' lawyer Giovanni Di Stefano said in a letter to Mr Straw that the law allows for early release where a prisoner is suffering from a terminal illness and is likely to die within three months.
"It is submitted that for Mr Biggs to die in custody in this manner would be wholly offensive to the general population of the European Union," he wrote.
Nick points out that Biggs was a small time crook who was peripherally involved in the train robbery; during the event he remained outside in a landrover with the substitute train driver. He was not present when Jack Mills, the train driver, was coshed. Nick describes him as 'a nice guy, not a violent man' who is now very frail, unable to speak and could not in any way pose a threat to society. He did not go on to commit any other crime during his 36 years on the run. He adds that the sentences given to the Train Robbers, for a one off job, were outrageous in many peoples' opinions, and extremely out of proportion to the crime.
Since Jack Straw's intervention to overrule the parole board and keep Ronnie Biggs in detention, despite his extremely poor health and old age, there have been many voices expressing their outrage at this decision. Nick says he was contacted recently by Gaz Mayall, one of those anxious to make some sort of statement about this, and that together with The Clash's Mick Jones they have been working on a single about Ronnie, which will be released in a few weeks time.
We expect the Channel 4 interview with Nick to be screened tomorrow; times and link to follow.