In the early hours of Thursday 8th August 1963 at Sears Crossing near Cheddington in Buckinghamshire, £2.6 million (£45 million today) in unmarked £5, £1 and 10-shilling notes was stolen from the ambushed Glasgow to London mail train in a violent and daring raid which took forty-six minutes. Quickly dubbed ‘The Crime of the Century’, it has captured the imagination of the public and the world’s media for 50 years, taking its place in British folklore. Ronnie Biggs, Bruce Reynolds and Buster Edwards became household names and their accounts have fed and inflated the myths and legends of ‘The Great Train Robbery’.

But what really happened?

This definitive account dismantles the myths, strips away the sensational headlines and debunks the bravado and bragging of the criminals to reveal a flawed, darker and more complex story. The crime, the police investigation, the trial, two escapes from high security prisons, and an Establishment under siege are all laid bare in astonishing detail for an epic tale of crime and punishment.

Fifty years later, here is the story set out in full for the first time, a true-life crime thriller and also a vivid slice of British political and social history.

“It was hailed as the perfect heist. But the great train robbery, this gripping reconstruction reveals, was fraught with blunders by both police and raiders… For the robbers who lost their liberty, all they had left was the myth of a brilliant crime. But that myth is comprehensively blown away by this thorough and often gripping book.”
Tim Rayment, The Sunday Times

“Pins larger-than-life personalities to the social fabric of the national narrative.”
Iain Finlayson, The Times

This racing read reveals a strangely seductive lost world.
Christopher Fowler, The Independent

“With hindsight, the irony is that the Great Train Robbery was not a harbinger of the Swinging Sixties, but rather, with its cast of cops and criminals in matching trilbies, a reminder of the old Britain – class-bound and violent yet still strangely innocent – that was about to be swept away.”
John Williams, Mail on Sunday

“Our fascination with the Great Train Robbery shows no sign of fading. It’s Britain’s  real-life Wizard of Oz – no matter how familiar the tale, we can never resist savouring it just one more time… This well-written book also tackles the question of why the crime still holds our attention.”
Mark Mason, The Spectator

“The idea that the great train robbery was a masterpiece of planning and execution by the cream of Britain’s villains has been strangely persistent. In fact, as Nick Russell-Pavier’s fascinating, if mildly obsessive, new book proves, this was always a myth that handily suited everybody involved: police, media and the criminals themselves.”
James Walton, Daily Mail