Bruce Reynolds, mastermind of Great Train Robbery who lived in Croydon, dies
Bruce Reynolds, mastermind of the 1963 Great Train Robbery, has died aged 81 - months before the 50th anniversary of the famous heist hailed as one of the most audacious crimes of the century.
Mr Reynolds, who lived in Croydon, died in his sleep on Thursday morning after a period of ill-health.
Reynolds was the main man in the gang that made off with more than £2.5 million - equivalent to £40 million today - when they held up the Royal Mail travelling post office which ran between Glasgow and London.
He spent his last years more innocuously, living in a flat in Croydon on income support supplied by a charitable trust.
His son Nick, who had cared for his Mr Reynolds in his final days: "He hadn't been well for a few days and I was looking after him. I really can't talk at the moment. I can confirm that he has passed away and he died in his sleep."
In an interview with the Croydon Guardian in 2004, the criminal mastermind revealed mixed emotions about his notorious past.
He said: "I wouldn't say I regret my life.
"On the one hand I lived in Mexico in an apartment with panoramic views, and drove fast cars.
"But on the other hand I spent 10 years in prison - back when prison really was prison - for my part in the Great Train Robbery, and another 10 years for other crimes.
Even decades after the heist Mr Reynolds was occasionally recognised in the street - with some Croydon residents greeting him more warmly than others.
He said: "Most of the people are welcoming, some of course are less so. Once a person refused to shake my hand.
"It takes you aback a little but that's the way it goes."
Speaking after his death, family friend John Schoonraad said he always found Reynolds to be the "perfect gentleman" and a "philosophical, gentle person". He added that Reynolds had been ill for a number of days and had a "chest complaint".
Despite Reynolds' much talked-about criminal past, Mr Schoonraad said he was a changed man and no longer believed in crime.
He added: "He said to me 'crime doesn't pay'. He's done his time, and he turned into a very nice man. I've always known him to be a real gentleman. He's lectured and everything. The latter part of his years have really been quite quiet."
Antiques dealer Mr Reynolds was nicknamed Napoleon and, after the Great Train Robbery, he fled to Mexico on a false passport and was joined by his wife, Angela, and son.
They later moved on to Canada but the cash from the robbery ran out and he came back to England.
Five years after the heist, in 1968, a broke Reynolds was captured in Torquay and sentenced to 25 years in jail. He was released on parole in 1978 and moved, alone and penniless, into a tiny flat off London's Edgware Road.
In the 1980s he was jailed for three years for dealing amphetamines.
His memoirs, written in 1995, said the Great Train Robbery proved a curse which followed him around and no-one wanted to employ him, legally or illegally.
"I became an old crook living on handouts from other old crooks," he said.