The authenticity of the news of the death of Great Train Robber, Ronnie Biggs, has been surrounded by mystery since the announcement of his demise so neatly ties in with the BBC mini-series screening of a drama about the ‘so called’ Great Train Robbery.
Having been released from prison on ‘compassionate grounds’, Biggs’ remarkable recovery from ‘death’s door’ in 2009 was bound to raise speculation that his current ‘death’ was no more than another publicity scam for one final payday from the BBC.
In a searching interview, BBC Trust Chairman, Lord Patten, tried to deny that by making Biggs’ headline news, they were simply publicising their own programme schedule. “It’s so not true,” he argued, “Biggs was a household name and his death is newsworthy, just like any other publicly known person.”
“In which case,” asked the interviewer, “why haven’t you cancelled the broadcast as a mark of respect for the victims, as you would for any other notable death?”
Lord Patten was unable to provide an answer as the BBC interrupted the interview with a pointless report given from a rain-coated journalist from the railway bridge under which the robbery took place half a century ago. This was followed with another trailer for this evenings’ TV schedule, an interview with alleged gangster’s moll, Barbara Windsor, and a special edition of the One Ronnie.
Biggs has always been a controversial character. To some, he was a lovable East End rogue; to more sane people he was a scheming cruel cold blooded murderer. Whatever one’s view, stupid or rational, no one has ever forgiven him for his musical collaboration with the Sex Pistols, a move which hastened the end of the puck rock era.
The release of news of a death to coincide with film and TV continues a trend which started with the cinema promotion of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.
Meanwhile Sir Bruce Forsyth is now in hiding after the BBC announced that a bopic of his life will be screened in January.