Get involved: send your pictures, video, news & views by texting Ealing Times to 80360, or email us
Quiz book reveals Ealing's links with Great Train Robbery
EALING features heavily in crime author Mike Gray’s The Great Train Robbery Quiz Book and The Ronnie Biggs Quiz Book.
The Great Train Robbery of 1963 is one of Britain's most memorable crimes, when a Royal Mail train was robbed of nearly £3m by a 16-strong gang, including Ronnie Biggs.
He was arrested and then escaped prison in 1965, he living under many aliases and eventually settling in Brazil, before returning to England in 2001 to Belmarsh Prison. He died in December last year.
The author says: "The public’s interest in The Great Train Robbery will never fade. Since 1963, there have been many bigger robberies but no-one seems to remember them."
Det Chief Supt Jack Slipper was born in Ealing in 1924 and went on to become instrumental in the arrest of most the train robbers, including Biggs. Slipper first collared Biggs in Surrey in 1963 and then in Brazil 11 years later.
Slipper trained as an electrician’s apprentice in Ealing before joining the Royal Air Force. He went on to train for the police at Hendon and, after his retirement, worked at the IBM offices in Greenford.
Slipper, who went to Little Ealing School, was portrayed in a BBC play on the subject but thought the portrayal of him was was unfair. He said it made him seem to be the "fall guy" and successfully sued the BBC.
Slipper is prominent in both books, especially The Ronnie Biggs Quiz Book, due to his involvement in Biggs’ arrests, and the relationship the two developed over the years.
They had a mutual respect and Biggs wanted to attend Slipper's funeral in 200,5 but his request was refused by his prison governor.
The respect for each other may seem unusual, as one was evading the other, but the author explains: "Jack Slipper knew Ronnie was not a dangerous crook and never was.
"Jack told me that, when he was given the arrest warrant for Biggs’ involvement in the Great Train Robbery, he found it ‘laughable’ that he was being asked to go to suburban Redhill to arrest a family man with his own carpentry business, whose current criminal CV was breaking into Woolworth's and stealing cars."
Mr Gray developed a relationship with Biggs when he first contacted him in Brazil in 1989.
They communicated by phone and in writing every month until Biggs returned in 2001.
The author then visited Biggs in prison every month for eight years.
Mr Gray said: "I met Ronnie face to face in May 2001 at HMP Belmarsh and was one of the first visitors to see him as a free man in August 2009."
Facts and secrets are shared in the books, such as the revelation that John Shaw’s character in The Sweeney was based on Jack Slipper.
Mr Gray said: ‘The two met regularly for drinks and discussion about the TV hit show and became good friends.’ The quiz books include 200 questions such as Which ex-England footballer’s father was arrested for the Train Robbery? and What was Jack Slipper’s nickname at Scotland Yard?
Readers will not be disappointed by the wealth of inside knowledge, based on real-life experiences with the evasive Biggs.
The books have received great reviews from readers and public figures alike as the fascination continues with the life of Ronnie Biggs and the Great Train Robbery.
The books are available from Amazon and Apex Publishing.