'Great Train Robber' Gordon Goody (1930 - 2016)

gordongoodyGordon Goody, the mastermind behind one of UK’s most notorious crimes, has died aged 86.  He was thought to be the last surviving member of a gang that in 1963 pulled off the crime of the decade to get away with £2.6m - equivalent to €50m+ today.  

Until breaking his silence last year, Gordon Goody was known as the quiet man of the Great Train Robbery. Now, what secrets he may have held about the notorious 1963 heist will never be revealed after the 86-year-old passed away on Friday, January 28th, 2016 in the Spanish village he came to call home.

For 50 years, Goody remained tight-lipped over the crime that captured the public’s imagination. He modestly tended to his bar in the whitewashed streets of Mojácar while the former gang leader Bruce Reynolds courted the media and accomplice Ronnie Biggs grabbed headlines with his globetrotting efforts to evade capture.

But in 2014 Goody finally decided to illuminate some, if not all, of the dark holes in the story of what has been dubbed the crime of the century.

Goody and Reynolds, to whom Goody stood as deputy in London’s South West gang, plotted the robbery, which saw 15 men halt the Glasgow to Euston overnight mail train on 8 August 1963.

The diesel locomotive was stopped as it passed through the Buckinghamshire countryside close to Cheddington and driven a mile and a half to Bridego bridge, where the gang unloaded £2,631,684 in used notes, the equivalent of around £46m today.

During the audacious raid, the train’s driver Jack Mills was hit over the head with an iron bar and suffered serious injuries. He recovered, and died in 1970 aged 64 from an illness unrelated to the robbery. However, his family maintained that he was traumatised by the attack.

Goody, who was 34 at the time, was caught and sentenced to 35 years but served only 12 after a change in the law.

In a book and documentary released two years ago, he claimed to reveal one of the great mysteries surrounding the robbery: who was the insider previously referred to as the Ulsterman who taught the gang how to target the train?

Goody claimed it was Patrick McKenna, then a 43-year-old postal worker in north London, who told them how a post train operated.

According to Goody, it was McKenna who told the gang to change the original robbery date from the 7th because the next day’s train would be carrying more cash.

But Goody was less forthcoming about another contested and more grave issue: who dealt the grisly blow to Mills? Gang member James

Hussey made a deathbed confession in 2012, claiming it was he who struck the train driver. Goody insisted this was not true but stopped short of revealing the identity of the assailant.
 
As for perhaps his most famous accomplice, Biggs, who spent more than 30 years on the run before he finally returned to Britain in 2001 to face arrest, Goody was less than flattering. “Biggsy was an arsehole,” he told the Guardian in 2014. “I didn’t like him, no one did.”

Biggs’s son Michael said: “It is always sad to know someone’s passed away and my thoughts are with his family at the moment, and I wish his family all the best. It’s the end of an era. Now it’s all down to the history books.”

Goody was released from prison in 1975 and four years later made his way to Spain where he lived out his life in the Almerian countryside.

There at least, it appears, he shook off his criminal past and settled into the community.

Announcing Goody’s death, a spokesman for the Mojacar town hall said: “All who knew him were struck by his friendliness, his love for his friends and family and the many pets he rescued from the street. He was a complete gentleman, far removed from the image that those who didn’t know him might have had from those difficult years that marked a large part of his life. We will always remember his smile and his big heart that was always open to those around him.”

Goody’s health had been failing and in recent years he cut a frail figure, accompanied always by an oxygen tank at his side.

Jessica Simpson, a local councillor in the town, which has a majority of ex-pat residents, wrote: "R.I.P Gordon Goody. A true legend has left on his last train ride to the sky... Your love, light and laughter will remain in our hearts forever more. You were loved and admired by many and will be sadly missed."

While fellow robbers Ronnie Biggs and Buster Edwards became household names and folk heroes, Goody kept in the background. 

For some 50 years following the train robbery, Goody had stayed silent on his role in the heist, only opening up about it in a 2013 documentary entitled "The Great Train Robbery: A tale of Two Thieves".

 

What hapended to the others?

 

Bruce Reynolds

Gang-leader and mastermind 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, Nick.

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.

After his second release, Reynolds went on to work briefly as a consultant on a film about the robbery, Buster, and published the

Autobiography of a Thief in 1995. His son Nick said his father died in his sleep in the early hours of February 28 2013.

 

Ronnie Biggs

Ronald Arthur 'Ronnie' Biggs played a minor role in the robbery, but his life as a fugitive after escaping from prison gained him notoriety. He was given a 30-year sentence in 1964, but he escaped after 15 months by fleeing over the walls of London's Wandsworth prison in April 1965.

After having plastic surgery, he lived as a fugitive for 36 years in first Australia then Brazil, where he fathered a son Michael.

His health deteriorated in 2001 and he returned to the UK voluntarily where he was sent back to prison.

He was finally freed in 2009 on 'compassionate grounds' by then Justice Secretary Jack Straw who said he was not expected to recover. He died in 2013.

 

Ronald 'Buster' Edwards

An ex-boxer, club owner and small-time crook who fled to Mexico after the heist but gave himself up in 1966.

Edwards is widely believed to be the man who wielded the cosh used to hit train driver Jack Mills over the head.
Mills' family say he never recovered, and he died seven years later.

Edwards served nine years in jail and then became a familiar figure selling flowers outside Waterloo station in London.

He was the subject of the 1988 film Buster, in which he was played by Phil Collins.Edwards was found hanged in a garage in 1994 at the age of 62. Two wreaths in the shape of trains accompanied his funeral cortège.

 

Charlie Wilson

Wilson was the gang's 'treasurer' who gave each of the robbers their cut of the haul.He was captured quickly and during his trial at Aylesbury Crown Court in 1964 earned the nickname 'the silent man' as he refused to say anything.

He was jailed for 30 years but escaped after just four months.

He was captured again in Canada after four years on the run and served 10 more years in jail.

He was the final train robber to emerge from prison in 1978.

Wilson moved to Marbella, Spain, where he was shot and killed by a hitman on a bicycle in 1990.

 

Roy James

A silversmith and racing driver, James dreamed of investing his share of the loot in new car technology.

He was nicknamed 'Weasel' and was the chief getaway driver.

James left a tell-tale fingerprint at the gang's farm hideout after the heist and was caught following a chase over rooftops in London.

Jailed for 30 years, he served 12 and later sold silver from a market stall before moving to Spain.

James was jailed again for six years in 1993 after shooting his wife's father and hitting her with a pistol.

He died at the age of 62, soon after getting out of prison.

 

Brian Field

A crooked solicitor who the gang used for the conveyancing when they bought the farm hideout used after the heist.

Field was arrested and sentenced to 25 years, which was later reduced to five.

He died in a motorway crash in 1979.

 

Bill Boal

An engineer who was arrested with Roger Cordrey in possession of £141,000.Reynolds said he had never heard of Boal. He claimed Boal was not involved in the robbery and was 'an innocent man'.

Boal was charged with receiving stolen goods and jailed for 24 years, which was reduced to 14 on appeal.

He died of cancer in jail in 1970.

 

Tommy Wisbey

A bookie and self-confessed 'heavy' whose job in the heist was to frighten the train staff.

Wisbey was sentenced to 30 years and released in 1976.

He was jailed for another 10 years in 1989 for cocaine dealing and later ran a flower stall.

On release from prison he went to live in north London and suffered several strokes.

 

Bobby Welch

A nightclub owner who was sentenced to 30 years in jail and was released in 1976.

He was later left crippled after an operation on his leg went wrong.

After jail he became a car dealer and gambler in London. He attended Bruce Reynolds' funeral earlier this year.

 

Gordon Goody

He was jailed for 30 years and released in 1975. Goody moved to Spain to run a bar.

 

James Hussey

A decorator known as 'Big Jim' who was sentenced to 30 years and released in 1975.

Hussey later worked on a market stall and then opened a Soho restaurant.

He notched up a conviction for assault in 1981 and in 1989 was jailed for seven years for a drug smuggling conspiracy with fellow train robber Wisbey.

He died in November 2012, aged 79, from cancer.

 

Roger Cordrey

Part of the South Coast Raiders gang, Cordrey was a florist.

He was arrested in Bournemouth after having the bad luck to rent a lock-up from a policeman's widow.

He was jailed for 20 years, which was reduced to 14 on appeal.

When he was released in 1971 he went back to the flower business and moved to the West Country. He has since died.

 

Jimmy White

A former Paratrooper described as 'quartermaster' for the robbery.

White was on the run for three years before being caught in Kent and sentenced to 18 years.

He was released in 1975 and went to live in Sussex. He has since died.

 

Leonard Field

A former merchant seaman, Field was sentenced to 25 years, which was later reduced to five.

He was released from jail in 1967 and went to live in north London. Believed to be dead.

 

John Wheater

A solicitor who was sentenced to three years for conspiring to pervert the course of justice. He was released in 1966 and went to live in Surrey. Believed to be dead.

Pin It

Comments  

+1 #1 Christopher Horne 2016-02-04 22:35
John Wheater died in 1975.
Harry Smith and Danny Pembroke, who took part in the robbery but were never tried, are also both dead, as is John Daly, a look out man who was found to have no case to answer.

You must be a registered user to make comments.
Please register here to post your comments.