- Notorious prisoner Charles Bronson sent a bouquet of flowers
- He said in a message read to the funeral: ‘I do hope the royal family show their respect with a nice train wreath’
- Brazilian flag draped across Ronnie Biggs’ coffin
- Freddie Foreman, who had links to the Kray twins, among the mourners
- Biggs gave a two-fingered salute last time he was seen in public
- Today his coffin was taken to Golders Green Crematorium, north London with a similar floral tribute
- Great Train Robbers fled with £2.6m in 1963 – £46m in today’s money
- Train driver Jack Mills was beaten over the head and never fully recovered
Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs, who spent much of his life cocking a snook at authority, was given an appropriate send off today.
He stuck two-fingers to the authorities for one last time – with an offensive floral tribute in the back of his hearse.
And in what could be seen as a final dig at British justice, the criminal’s coffin had a Union Flag draped across it which was almost completely covered by a Brazilian flag in reference to the time he spent on the run there.
After being jailed, Biggs escaped from Wandsworth Prison in 1965 and made his way to Rio five years later where he could not be extradited back to his homeland. He stayed there for 27 years before finally returning to the country.
At his funeral today, some of Britain’s best-known villains paid their respects in person – and those behind bars sent their messages of condolence.
Tribute: Biggs’s granddaughter Ingrid and son Michael speak during the funeral service
Charles Bronson, one of the country’s longest-serving prisoners, sent a bouquet containing an old ten-bob note with the words ‘Ronnie Biggs RIP’ scrawled across it.
Biggs, who spend 36 years on the run in total, died last month aged 84 after a long battle with illness.
When Bruce Reynolds, the mastermind behind the notorious Great Train Robbery in 1963, died last year, Biggs took the opportunity to swear at journalists one last time.
Today Bruce’s son Nick was among the mourners at Golders Green Crematorium, in north London.
Freddie Foreman, a notorious East End crook with links to the Kray twins, and self-proclaimed former gangster Dave Courtney were also in attendance.
Leading the hearse and funeral cars, it played songs including When the Saints Come Marching In
Defiance: Ronnie Biggs, seen last year when he made his final public appearance (left), gives a two-fingered salute. He was involved in the Great Train Robbery when he was much younger (right) in 1963
Biggs’ coffin had both the Union Jack and the Brazilian flag draped across it – in reference to the time he spent on the run.
The robber and his co-conspirators made off with £2.6million – which is £46million in today’s money – when they hijacked a Royal Mail train in Ledburn, Buckinghamshire.
Jack Mills, the driver, was coshed over the head with an iron bar and never properly recovered from his injuries.
At Biggs’ funeral today, the Reverend Dave Thompson said: ‘People have asked me “How can you take part in the funeral of a Great Train Robber?”
‘What we need to remember is that Jesus didn’t hang out with hoity-toity folk, he just treated people as people.’
Biggs’s son Michael cried as he paid homage to his father, saying; ‘I’m here to talk about Ron, Ronnie, to me simply dad.
‘Dad always had a way of looking at things and saying something that was fair and often funny.
‘Dad never made enemies and after arriving in Brazil he embraced the culture and became a carioca, someone from Rio.
‘He always had soft spot for the underdog and he considered himself to be one, he always had a few pennies for the street beggars.
‘He spoke the lingo and enjoyed the samba.
‘And parties, he knew about great parties, some were memorable and to this day there are still old hippies that I meet in Rio and say the biggest party they ever went to were with dad.
‘Dad thank you for all your love and strength when necessary, your screwed up way of parenting that many people did not understand, however it has worked.
‘Let’s celebrate his life with a proper booze up later on, ashes to ashes and dust to the beach.
‘Don’t worry mate, you are not paying for the booze.’
Speaking about the ill health he had suffered in his last years, Mr Reynolds said: ‘Ronnie managed to hang on to life with great tenacity, dignity and humour.
‘The house was a wreck but the lights were on and Ron was very much at home.
‘The word legend is defined in the dictionary as an extremely famous or notorious person, especially in a particular field, and Ron certainly fits that description.’
He also read out an email from Bronson, who described Biggs as ‘staunch, solid, loyal to the end’.
‘Much respect to a diamond geezer,’ Bronson wrote. ‘I do hope the royal family show their respect with a nice train wreath.
‘Three cheers to you Ron, we love you buddy.’
Funeral: Self-proclaimed English former gangster Dave Courtney arrives at Ronnie Biggs’ funeral at Golders Green Crematorium today
Earlier, the funeral cortege, with a guard of honour formed by 13 Hells Angels bikers, left the home of Biggs’ son Michael and daughter-in-law Veronica in Barnet, north London.
Michael, who was wearing dark glasses and jeans with a skull and crossbones belt, met with mourners before the cortege set off.
Ronald Arthur ‘Ronnie’ Biggs, who spent more than three decades on the run, had been cared for at Carlton Court Care Home in East Barnet, north London, after suffering several strokes in recent years.
His carers at the home were among those joining the funeral procession today.
Close friend and writer Chris Pickard, who helped Biggs put together his autobiography Odd Man Out, said: ‘I am going to remember him as a great friend. He was great fun to be around.
‘I knew him in Rio and he was a great host and a very generous man.
‘People forget he was involved in just one major incident, one of the iconic crimes of the 20th century.
‘He always said he was the best witness to the Great Train Robbery, he played a very minor part in it, but people always link it to him.
‘But if he hadn’t gone over the prison wall, he wouldn’t have been remembered – there were 16 people at the track but it’s only people like him, Buster Edwards and Bruce Reynolds that get remembered all these years later.
‘Ronnie kept in the news by being on the run for all those years, getting himself kidnapped, it is amazing – he has been in the news virtually every year for the last 50 years and very few people can say that.’
‘His friends were from a huge base of artists and musicians, he didn’t really have that many friends in the criminal fraternity.’
Biggs was released from prison in 2009 on compassionate grounds due to ill health, despite being re-arrested in 2001 upon his return to the UK after evading the authorities since his first escape from Wandsworth Prison in 1965.
At the time of his escape, Biggs had served just 15 months of the 30-year sentence he was handed for his part in the robbery of a Royal Mail freight train between London and Glasgow on August 8, 1963.
After having plastic surgery, he lived as a fugitive for 36 years first in Australia then Brazil, where Michael was born. His son later became the key to him being allowed to stay in the country and not face extradition. Biggs’s money eventually ran out and he traded on his notoriety to scrape a living.
Speaking last year, he said he was proud to have been part of the gang behind the robbery, which saw 15 men escape with a record haul.
Biggs, who could not speak due to his strokes and communicated through a spelling board, said: ‘If you want to ask me if I have any regrets about being one of the train robbers, my answer is, “No”.
‘I will go further: I am proud to have been one of them.’
He did admit to some regrets, however.
‘It is regrettable, as I have said many times, that the train driver was injured,’ he said.
Source : Daily mail