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Rush for the scoop of the year as Great Train Robber spotted in town

By This is SouthDevon  |  Posted: October 05, 2009

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ONE OF the highlights of my journalistic career was an interview with Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs.

Biggs was speaking from his then hideaway in Brazil and was promoting the publication of a book.

The local link was that he had been a wartime evacuee to South Devon — anything to sell a book, I suppose.

You can, therefore, see why I was intrigued when reports came into the Herald Express newsroom that Biggs had been spotted in Torquay.

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An observant member of public rang to say the recently-released robber was having fun on Oddicombe Beach.

He had appeared in a national newspaper that very day, at a beach being pushed around in a wheelchair by his son, so it seemed to add up.

Photographer Paul Levie and reporter Paul Greaves hot-footed it to the scene.

Mr Levie had already cased the joint and spotted Biggs having a cup of tea outside the cafe and getting comfy on the cushions.

But Mr Greaves was less confident we had the right man. His verdict at the time was: "Paul Levie's eyesight must be as bad as the guy who rang up, because I noticed all he had in common with Biggs was a wheelchair and a hat."

Biggs from London was, in fact, Sid from Cornwall!

Mr Greaves said: "I made his day by turning up. He was surrounded by family who joined in the general micky taking by taking photos of Paul and I.

"His family were all from Nottinghamshire and told us Sid was a real joker."

Ah well, there's always the next time. Perhaps, Biggs will return to his wartime roots one day...

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