Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs released

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Britain's notorious "Great Train Robber" was released from his prison sentence Thursday as the nearly 80-year-old lay close to death in a hospital bed.

Britain's Justice Secretary Jack Straw said he decided to release Ronnie Biggs on compassionate grounds, after he fell seriously ill this week in his cell at Norwich Prison, 118 miles northeast of London.

The prison officers watching him at the Norwich and Norfolk Hospital will remain overnight, and leave tomorrow, once the paperwork for his release is complete, Straw said. Biggs turns 80 on Saturday.

Biggs was part of a gang that robbed a Glasgow-to-London mail train in August 1963, in what was called the "heist of the century." The robbery netted 2.6 million pounds — worth more than $50 million today.

Most of the gang was soon rounded up. Biggs was sentenced to 30 years in jail but escaped from prison in 1965 by climbing over a wall. He fled to Brazil, where he made a living from his notoriety, regaling journalists and tourists with stories of his exploits and even recording with punk band The Sex Pistols.

In 2001, he voluntarily returned to Britain, surrendered to police and was sent back to jail. He was locked up in Belmarsh high-security prison in London on his return before being moved to a specialist medical unit at Norwich prison...

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