Train robbery police commended
Police officers who investigated the Great Train Robbery have been commended for their part in solving the "crime of the century" 50 years ago.
Eighteen retired Buckinghamshire Constabulary investigators and backroom staff were reunited at Eynsham Hall in Witney, Oxfordshire.
They received commendations on the eve of the £2.6 million heist's 50th anniversary from chief constable Sara Thornton.
The robbery took place on August 8 1963, when a gang masterminded by Bruce Reynolds stopped the Glasgow-Euston overnight mail train as it passed through the Buckinghamshire countryside close to Cheddington.
Keith Milner, now 78, was the duty detective at Aylesbury on the night of the robbery. Then aged 28, he was woken by a call at 5am letting him know there had been a burglary near Cheddington. "I said 'what's gone?' and they said 'a train'," he explained. "An early call generally meant a long day and this was no exception. In those days we got dressed - suit, collar and tie - and off we went."
After first collecting evidence on the railtrack, Mr Milner spent nine months attached to the investigation as the officer in charge of exhibits. He was instrumental during the subsequent court case and worked shoulder to shoulder with Scotland Yard legends such as Leonard "Nipper" Read, later responsible for bringing down the East End gangland empire ruled by the Kray twins.
Twelve of the robbers were jailed for a total of more than 300 years but more than one broke out of prison, including notorious criminal Ronnie Biggs. Reynolds returned in 1968, five years after the crime, and was captured in Torquay and jailed for 25 years. He died aged 81 in February.
Last month Biggs insisted he was proud to have been part of the gang. The famous fugitive, who will celebrate his 84th birthday on Thursday, escaped from prison in 1965 and spent 36 years on the run before finally being arrested and jailed in 2001.
A new book has been published to mark the 50th anniversary, The Great Train Robbery - 50th Anniversary - 1963-2103, said to explain first-hand the complete story of the robbery. Both Biggs and Reynolds contributed to the book, which has been written by Reynolds' son Nick, along with Biggs' autobiographer Chris Pickard. Reynolds and Mr Pickard said the book was aimed at "setting the record straight", and putting right any inaccuracies in a tale that has become folklore.
Sara Thornton said today: "The coverage in the newspapers and the discussion is always about the offenders in this notorious crime. I wanted to balance that by thanking the police officers and police staff who played a very important role in making sure that those men were brought to justice 50 years ago."