The Great Train Robbers (from left): Buster Edwards, Tom Wisbey, Jim White, Bruce Reynolds, Roger Cordrey, Charlie Wilson and Jim Hussey, with copies of their book The Train Robbers in 1979.
Bruce Reynolds, the brains behind the Great Train Robbery of 1963, has died at the age of 81, nearly five decades after he and his partners in crime made off with 2.6 million pounds at Ledburn, Buckinghamshire, England.
Reynolds was part of the gang that executed an elaborate scheme to swipe the cash from the Glasgow-to-Euston mail train. The clockwork nature of the crime, along with the fact that the bulk of the loot was never recovered and some of the robbers never captured, has made it a favorite subject of television and films, as well as popular music.
Even Leonard "Nipper" Read, the Scotland Yard detective who tracked down some of the robbers, called Reynolds' death "the end of an era."
"It was certainly a well-organized operation, and Reynolds was the pioneer. It is a little piece of history," Read said.
As The Associated Press notes, "The participants became criminal celebrities — to the chagrin of the police and the family of Jack Mills, the train driver, who was hit on the head during the robbery and never fully recovered. He died seven years later."
After the robbery, Reynolds fled England and hid out with a wife and son in Mexico and Canada until a fateful decision to return to the country in 1968. According to The Guardian:
Tommy Butler, the detective who arrested him in Torquay, greeted him with the words, "Hello, Bruce, it's been a long time," to which Reynolds replied: "C'est la vie."
"Reynolds was jailed for 25 years, a sentence that even the late Metropolitan police commissioner, Sir Robert Mark, thought was excessive. In fact, one of the reasons the robbery became so well-known was the length of sentences doled out by Mr. Justice Edmund Davies, who said it was 'a crime which in its impudence and enormity is the first of its kind in this country. I propose to do all in my power to ensure that it is the last of its kind. ... Let us clear out of the way any romantic notions of daredevilry.'"
Reynolds served just 10 years of the original sentence.
His son, Nick Reynolds, said his father died after a brief illness.
Reynolds wrote The Autobiography of a Thief about the famous crime and his life. He also occasionally performed in his son's rock band, Alabama 3, which produced the theme song to the television show The Sopranos.