That Bob Dylan track and a train robber's tale

PUBLISHED: 18:19 12 August 2009 | UPDATED: 10:58 23 August 2010

A WRITER and close friend of Ronnie Biggs hailed the release of the Great Train Robber but blasted the initial refusal as inhuman and callous , writes Michael Adkins. Mike Gray, 52, from Kent, wrote the book Ronnie Biggs - The Inside Story after spend

A WRITER and close friend of Ronnie Biggs hailed the release of the 'Great Train Robber' but blasted the initial refusal as 'inhuman and callous', writes Michael Adkins.

Mike Gray, 52, from Kent, wrote the book Ronnie Biggs - The Inside Story after spending years visiting him in prison every month for the last eight years.

The retired printer formed an unlikely friendship with Biggs and his family after making contact with him while he was on the run in Brazil.

Since his return he has vehemently campaigned for his release and is adamant he has served his time. He said: "It is absolutely brilliant that Ronnie Biggs has been released. He has served his debt to society and more. But to refuse his release despite the Parole Board recommendation is ludicrous. It was inhumane and callous but we got the right result in the end and he can now spend his final days with his family."

Mr Gray became fascinated with the 'Great Train Robbery' when he was working on a school project in 1970 and a decade later set about contacting Ronnie Biggs.

Over the years the duo formed a strong relationship with Mr Gray writing to him for the last 25 years, even during his time in Brazil.

He added: "When Ronnie Biggs married in Belmarsh Prison only 10 people were invited, all very close relatives. I was invited because I had been loyal to him over all those years. But to me it was not just a case of loyalty.

"This man has served his time for the crime he committed. Ronnie Biggs is not in the same league as the Krays or notorious gangsters. He was the tea boy who became the legend. As sad as it was and it's terrible for the family but he had nothing to do with coshing the railway man. His job was simply to find the train driver, nothing more. To get 30 years for that is extreme but in those days (1963) the case was quite unique. He robbed the Royal Mail, seen as treason, a crime against the Queen.

"But compare that to today's rapists and murderers who often get nothing in the region of 30 years. At the end of the day this is a dying prisoner, who is no threat to society as the Parole Board found in their report when they recommended his release. I just can't believe it was ever blocked considering his condition was deemed terminal."

In a bid to highlight Ronnie Biggs plight in hospital he recently uploaded a YouTube video called 'Ronnie Biggs - Knockin on Heavens Door' showing his visits over the last fortnight.

He wrote the lyrics and sang the vocals along the lines of the classic Bob Dylan track 'Take these handcuffs off of me, I can't wear them anymore...'

Mr Gray added: "I was horrified to see my close friend gravely ill."

Mr Gray's book tells the inside story about Biggs' cell life in Belmarsh.

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