By STEPHEN WRIGHT


The cheeks appear a little puffier and the sideburns just immense, but there is no mistaking the grin.


Posing happily for the camera, Ronnie Biggs – his face distorted by plastic surgery – mixes with fellow passengers on a cruise liner while on the run in 1970.


The pictures were taken as the Great Train Robber, who had escaped from prison in 1965, made his way from Australia to Brazil, where he would live for a further 31 years before returning to the UK in poor health.


A lag on the ocean wave: Ronnie Biggs (far left) pictured mingling at a cocktail party on board the cruise liner bound for Brazil while on the run in 1970

A lag on the ocean wave: Ronnie Biggs (far left) pictured mingling at a cocktail party on board the cruise liner bound for Brazil while on the run in 1970


They were passed on to Scotland Yard and remained secret until a former surveillance officer cleared out the loft of his home in Kent.


Retired Detective Sergeant Keith Dugard, now 79, says he was given the images for safe keeping by the former head of the Flying Squad, Detective Chief Superintendent Tommy Butler.


Biggs,given 30 years for his part in the £2.6million robbery but after 15 months escaped from Wandsworth prison by climbing a 30ft wall and fleeing in a furniture van.


He fled to Melbourne, where he was joined by his wife Charmian, but had to depart hurriedly after a newspaper reported that police knew he was there and were closing in.


Ladies man: The Great Train Robber, whose face was swollen from plastic surgery, with a female companion

Ladies man: The Great Train Robber, whose face was swollen from plastic surgery, with a female companion

Biggs is believed to have had his plastic surgery in France before heading to Brazil, where he remained until 2001 when, desperately ill after a number of strokes, he flew back to London for medical treatment.


He was immediately put behind bars to serve the rest of his sentence.


He was released on ‘compassionate grounds’ by the then Justice Secretary Jack Straw last year.


Today, aged 81, he lives in a north London nursing home near his Brazil-born son Michael, now 35.


Mr Dugard said: ‘When Tommy gave me the pictures, I didn’t really study them. He called me aside in his office at the Yard and said, “That’s what Biggs looks like now”. It had come back to us that he’d had plastic surgery, that he was in a lot of pain and that he was not happy with it.


‘Where Tommy got them from, I don’t know. I suspect he knew a lot about Ronnie’s whereabouts but, like a lot of Flying Squad officers in those days, he kept his cards close to his chest.’


‘He said “nobody looks at these” and put them in a sealed envelope. I stored them in my desk and didn’t look at them again for 38 or 39 years, until I cleared out my loft a couple of years ago.


‘But having looked at them again now, I suspect that one of the men standing next to Biggs was one of his associates, and he was Tommy Butler’s snout.

‘I think that is why Tommy may have been keen for me to put them away in a safe place, so that nobody else saw them and knew who his snout was.


‘The other picture of Biggs laughing as he queued up for a buffet is typical Ronnie. He was a cheeky bugger.


‘On one level, it’s amazing that he posed for pictures. But you have to remember he had got away with so much by then. He had escaped from prison, had had plastic surgery, had spent a few years in Australia with his wife Charmian who had somehow managed to elude us. He was cocky.’


Mr Dugard, a highly respected police photographer who played a key role in the setting up of the Covert Intelligence Branch, was heavily involved in the hunt for Biggs after he jumped over the wall at Wandsworth Prison in 1965.


He said police concentrated their surveillance operations on Biggs’ wife, Charmian, who, he said, gave them the run-around on several occasions.


‘I was outside her home in Forest Hill, south London, in my surveillance van for weeks on end,’ he said.


‘On average, I would have been in the back of that van for 16 hours a day. Just me and my driver.


‘She took us to Gatwick three times, with cases and everything, and next thing we knew she was home again. She kept giving us the dance.


Wanted man: Biggs with a carnival participant in Brazil during the filming of The Prisoner of Rio - a film about his life

Wanted man: Biggs with a carnival participant in Brazil during the filming of The Prisoner of Rio – a film about his life


‘She appeared to have surveillance aware. Ronnie had warned her that the Old Bill would be in her pocket all the time.

been

‘Ronnie’s escape was well plotted and Charmian was the only person who could have taken us to him at that time.


‘But she didn’t, she evaded us. If my memory serves me right, she left home with nothing, as if she was going to the post office, and never came back.


‘She was lost on that occasion and that was the last we saw of her. How she got to Australia, I don’t know.


‘I think she was cunning, She gave us a false impression that she was going to fly out from Gatwick because that is where she always took us.’


Desperately ill: He was released from prison on ¿compassionate grounds¿ last year

Desperately ill: He was released from prison on ¿compassionate grounds¿ last year

How different things were a few years earlier when, following Biggs’ conviction over the Great Train Robbery, senior Flying Squad officers had a celebratory lunch at the George Public House near Borough Market in south London in 1964.


Mr Dugard took this team picture to commemorate the occasion, which was attended by Chief Supt Butler, who would later arrest Great Train Robbery fugitives Charlie Wilson and Bruce Reynolds.


Also there was Det Supt Frank Williams, who arrested another of the robbers, Buster Edwards, and the then Det Inspector Jack Slipper, who infamously returned empty handed after attempting to bring Biggs back from Brazil in 1974.


Biggs, from Lambeth, South London, was a member of a 15-strong gang which attacked the Glasgow to London mail train at Ledburn, Buckinghamshire, in August 1963, and made off with £2.6 million in used banknotes.


The robbery left train driver Jack Mills with serious injuries. He never fully recovered from his injuries, and died seven years later.


Ex Det Sgnt Dugard says he would love to find out more from Biggs, in particular the identities of the men pictured with him.

He adds: ‘It’s not going to happen. But I am sure Tommy Butler had good reasons to keep those pictures secret. Rule number one in those days was: ‘never show out your snout’.


Are you one of the other people in these pictures, or do you know who they are? Contact news@dailymail.co.uk or phone 020 7938 6000.

Ronnie Biggs parties on cruise ship to Brazil, his face swollen from plastic surgery | Mail Online.

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