LONDON – The mastermind of Britain’s 1963 Great Train Robbery, Bruce Reynolds, died Thursday at age 81 after a life he said had been cursed by his role in one of the 20th century’s most notorious crimes.
Reynolds was the brains in a gang that held up a mail train in southern England and made off with almost £2.6 million — worth around £40 million ($63 million) today.
Born in London, Reynolds was an antiques dealer and petty criminal before his involvement in what at the time was Britain’s biggest robbery ever. Nicknamed “Napoleon,” he was responsible for planning the raid by 15 men on the Glasgow-London post office train in the southern county of Buckinghamshire on Aug. 7, 1963.
Train driver Jack Mills was hit on the head with a truncheon during the robbery and was unable to work again.
After the robbery, Reynolds went on the run with a false passport to Mexico, where he was joined by his wife, Angela, and his son.
They later moved to Canada, but their £150,000 share of the cash from the robbery ran out and he came back to England, where he was captured in 1968. He eventually spent 11 years in jail.
After his release in 1979, he worked as a consultant on the film “Buster,” which starred rock star Phil Collins as fellow Great Train Robber Buster Edwards. In the 1980s, he was jailed for three years for dealing amphetamines, and by the end of his life was reduced to living on state benefits in a tiny London apartment.