RONNIE Biggs’ death has brought a Gloucester detective’s dogged pursuit of the train robber back in the spotlight.
Detective Sergeant Brian Marshall had to keep it a secret for 30 years but his role was revealed by the Gloucester Citizen in 2001.
Only then, with Biggs safely behind bars on British soil, could the Hucclecote policeman tell his story.
Biggs was in a gang which stole £2.6million from a mail train in 1963. Jailed for 30 years, he and others were sprung from prison in 1965.
He went on the run to Brazil, from where he flaunted his freedom - Mr Marshall was the man who tracked him down after months of surveillance, his role a secret from even Brazilian police.
“I remember the day he rang me and he said he wanted to tell me something that he hadn’t been able to for 35 years,” said former Gloucester Citizen reporter of 41 years, Hugh Worsnip.
“He said ‘now Biggs is under British jurisdiction, I can tell you’.
“I had known Brian for such a long time but he’d never been able to tell me. It was an explosive story - I couldn’t believe we were telling it.”
Mr Marshall, who still lives in Hucclecote, knew a Brazilian in Gloucester, who told him “rumour was rife” in Rio de Janeiro that one of the train robbers was there.
“At the same time the Tredworth bookmaker, Danny Baldwin, asked me if I had any means of tracing his daughter, who was a night club singer in Rio, but had gone missing,” said Mr Marshall, who was seconded from Gloucestershire police to the newly-formed Central Drugs & Illegal Immigration Intelligence Unit at Scotland Yard.
"I told my bosses at the Yard that I had the contacts and the excuse to go to Rio posing as a holiday maker and check out the story. I flew to Rio in October, 1973 and spent two months on the beaches of Copacabana, Ipanema and Barra Barra, keeping fit and keeping my eyes open. At night I went round the night clubs and bars. The Brazilian police feted me as a holidaymaker from Scotland Yard. I didn't tell them I was on duty.”
He spotted Biggs, under the statue of Christ and the following year the Head of the Flying Squad, Jack Slipper, flew to Rio in an unsuccessful bid to bring him back to Britain.
Although Mr Marshall met Biggs again when he was security officer for a shipping line, he said he had “no sympathy” believed he should serve the rest of his sentence.
Biggs returned in 2001 for medical treatment and was sent to prison. After contracting pneumonia he was released on medical grounds in 2009.