THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBER ESCAPES FROM PRISON

Charles Wilson (left) on a flight back to Britain after his recapture in Canada | Photo: Getty Images

On this date in 1964, Charlie “the silent man” Wilson, part of the gang who pulled off the 1963 Great Train Robbery, one of the biggest heists of its kind, escapes from Winson Green Prison in Birmingham, England, in under three minutes. Several men broke into the maximum-security facility to free Wilson, who remained on the loose until 1968.

Ladder which helped Wilson escape Winson Green prison | Photo: Birmingham Mail

The so-called Great Train Robbery took place on 8 August 1963, when 15 masked men attacked the Glasgow to London Royal Mail train near Buckinghamshire. The thieves hauled off 120 bags of money totalling a record £2.6 million (£55.7 million today). In less than a week, a tip led police to the robbers’ hideout, Leatherslade Farm in Bedfordshire, where they found fingerprints & other evidence. Charlie Wilson & other gang members were soon arrested. In April 1964, Wilson was sentenced, along with six other Great Train robbers, to 30 years in prison. Five other men received shorter terms.

Wilson eluded police for several years. He took up residence outside Montreal, Quebec, Canada. He lived under the name Ronald Alloway. It was only when he invited his brother-in-law over from the UK for Christmas that Scotland Yard was able to track him down and recapture him. Wilson was returned to England on 25 January 1968 where he served about one-third of his sentence. Wilson later moved to Marbella, Spain, where he allegedly became a drug dealer, and was shot to death on 23 April 1990.

7 out of 15 robbers with copies of their book The Train Robber. Wilson is second from right, 1979 | Photo: The Scotsman

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