Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs died today at his home in north London following years of ill health.
The crook passed away peacefully in the early hours of the morning, his son Michael said today.
Biggs was last seen in public in March at the funeral of London gangster Bruce Reynolds.
He had been living in the UK since 2001 having returned from exile in Brazil, where he had fled after escaping prison for his part in the robbery.
It was suggested that his return to Britain was prompted by an need for health care, which he could not afford in Brazil.
But Biggs claimed he wanted to go to a pub in Margate ‘as an Englishman and buy a pint of bitter’.
Despite years of controversy over his role in the robbery, Biggs said he ‘never regretted’ being part of the gang which ransacked a Royal Mail train and stole £2.6m in cash in 1963.
But as both tributes and condemnations poured in today, a friend said Biggs ‘always regretted’ the injury to train driver Jack Mills, who was hit over the head and suffered for the rest of his life from the injuries.
Author Mike Gray said: “Ronnie did not have a bad bone in his body. Even the copper who arrested him said his criminal CV was laughable.
“He only went along because he was friends with Bruce Reynolds, but nobody else had ever heard of him.
“He was by his own admission the tea boy who became the legend due to the world media.
“He always regretted the injury to the train driver. Only yesterday I sent him a Christmas card.
“This is a sad day for me and his family.”
Mike first crossed paths with Biggs when he was a nine year-old boy standing outside Wandsworth Prison waiting for his father, who was a warder, to finish his shift.
He remembers spotting a red van alongside the prison’s towering walls on the day in July 1965 that Biggs escaped.
Minutes earlier Biggs had scaled the prison walls on a rope ladder, jumped onto the van’s roof and made his getaway in a car to begin 36 years on the run.
Mike, from Rainham, Kent said he was one of only a handful who tracked down Biggs to Brazil in 1974 – and was amazed when the fugitive replied to his letter.
They formed a strong friendship and with him Mike co-wrote “Ronnie Biggs – The Inside Story” as well as writing three others.
Mike’s latest book The Ronnie Biggs Quiz Book has just been published.
Biggs was sentenced to 30 years in jail but escaped after just 15 months. As other prisoners created a diversion in the exercise yard, Biggs scaled the wall of Wandsworth prison with a rope and dropped into a waiting furniture van
He fled to Australia where he was joined by wife Charmain and there two children.
But when Biggs’ presence in the country became known to police, he flew to Brazil where he had a child with a dancer 18 years his junior – meaning that as the father of a Brazilian he could not be deported.