11 August 2016
Great Train Robbery thief Charlie Wilson escaped from prison and went on the run on 11 August 1964
On this day in history, 1964: Great Train Robbery thief Charlie Wilson escaped from prison and went on the run. At the time he was only four months into his 30-year sentence for his part in the theft of £2.6 million from the Royal Mail train in 1963, most of which has never been recovered. The prison authorities were astonished that such an escape was possible, and Wilson, the most dangerous of the robbers, wasn’t captured for four years.
The Great Train Robbery occurred when, on 7 August 1963, the Glasgow to Euston ‘Travelling Post Office’ set off as usual – apart from the fact that the carriages with up to date alarms were out of service, so reserved – unalarmed – replacements had to be used instead.
The Great Train Robbery was a heist on a grand scale, involving a team of 17 criminals, who rigged the signal lights to show red (covering the green one with a glove), causing the train driver to stop and investigate.
The driver was smacked on the head (causing life-long health issues that ended his career), the rest of the crew told to stay on the floor, and the carriages with the valuables were moved by the criminals to a nearby bridge to hide their location.
Within 30 minutes the team of robbers had unloaded 128 sacks – a haul that was an estimated ten times higher than it would usually be, on account of the preceding bank holiday spending in Scotland.
Following a tip off, their hideout was discovered. Incriminating fingerprints on a ketchup bottle and a game of Monopoly led to the identity of the gang.
Watch a documentary about the Great Train Robbery below: