|Born||Ronald Christopher Edwards
27 January 1931
Lambeth, London, England
|Died||28 November 1994
Lambeth, London, England
|Cause of death||Hanging|
|Criminal penalty||15 years|
|Criminal status||Released in 1975 after serving nine years.|
|Spouse(s)||June Rose Rothery (1952, Lambeth -1994; his death)|
|Children||Nicolette (1961 - Lambeth)|
|Conviction(s)||Great Train Robbery|
Ronald Christopher "Buster" Edwards (27 January 1931 – 28 November 1994) was an English criminal who was a member of the gang that committed the Great Train Robbery. He had also been a boxer and nightclub owner.
Early and private life
Edwards was born in Lambeth, the son of a barman. He worked in a sausage factory after leaving school, where he began his criminal career by stealing meat to sell on the post-war black market. During his National Service in the RAF, he was detained for stealing cigarettes. When he returned to south London, he ran a drinking club and became a professional criminal.
He married June Rose in 1952. They had a daughter, Nicky.
He was involved in the theft of £62,000 (£1.19 million today) from Comet House, the headquarters of British Overseas Airways Corporation at Heathrow Airport, in 1962. Many of the gang were captured, but Edwards escaped arrest. Many from the same gang would go on to undertake the Great Train Robbery in August 1963.
Great Train Robbery
The Great Train gang intercepted the Glasgow–London mail train in Buckinghamshire in the early hours of 8 August 1963. After tampering with the track-side signal lights, they stopped the train at Sears Crossing and moved the engine and high-value carriage to Bridego Bridge, near Cheddington, and they escaped with £2,600,000 of used banknotes (£49.1 million today). The driver, Jack Mills, was beaten over the head and suffered from related complications for the rest of his life—opinion is divided as to whether the injury was a factor in his death. The gang's temporary hideout at Leatherslade Farm was quickly found. Most of the gang were captured, tried, and imprisoned, but Edwards evaded arrest with his £150,000 share of the stolen money.
Edwards and another gang member, Bruce Reynolds, took their families to Mexico. The money ran out, and Edwards' family became homesick, so he negotiated his return to England in 1966. He was arrested and sentenced to 15 years in jail.
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Edwards spent 9 years in prison. After his early release in 1975, he ran a flower stall outside Waterloo station in London. He gave interviews to writer Piers Paul Read, persuading him to write in his 1978 book The Train Robbers that the robbery was led by German commando Otto Skorzeny, and that Edwards was the person responsible for hitting Jack Mills. Edwards later retracted these claims. Buster, a film about his role in the Great Train Robbery, was made in 1988, with Edwards played by Phil Collins.
Buster Edwards can be seen making a cameo appearance in the film Buster alongside Phil Collins' wife Jill in the scene where Buster and June land in Mexico, he and Jill walk out of the airport in front of Buster and June Edwards.
Theft by Dexter Fletcher
In 1991, Edwards was the victim of a theft, albeit of a more mundane nature. On 15 June, at about 3pm, British actor Dexter Fletcher ran along Mepham Street and scooped up two bunches of nasturtiums valued at £5 from Edwards' stall. Edwards declined to chase Fletcher for fear of leaving his stall unattended. Fletcher was seen to run off on to York Road with the flowers. Edwards reported the theft to the police, identifying his assailant as being, "That lad out of The Rachel Papers". Fletcher was unlucky in the timing of his theft because Edwards had seen the film for the first time only days before. Fletcher was arrested and charged with theft. The following week Fletcher appeared at Horseferry Road Magistrates' Court and pleaded guilty. He was given a conditional discharge for twelve months and ordered to pay £30 costs. In mitigation, Fletcher said that the flowers were for his girlfriend and Press Gang co-star Julia Sawalha, but that he had lost his cash card and was unable to obtain funds to pay for the flowers. Fletcher subsequently apologised to Edwards and compensated him for the flowers.
Edwards died in Lambeth, London, at the age of 63. He was found by his brother, hanging from a steel girder inside a lock-up garage in Leake Street, Lambeth. At the Inquest following Edwards' death, a panel recorded an open verdict, based on testimony that the deceased was too intoxicated to form an intent to kill himself. However, at the time of his death, he was being investigated by the police as part of an inquiry into a suspected large-scale fraud and it is speculated that fear of being re-imprisoned could have led to a suicide attempt.
Edwards was survived by his wife and their daughter.
- Richard Hobbs, 'Edwards, Ronald Christopher [Buster] (1931–1994)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004 accessed 21 Sept 2010
- Bruce Reynolds, The Autobiography of a Thief (Virgin Books, 2005),p.193.
- Train robber Edwards is found hanged, The Independent, 30 November 1994
- Ronald (Buster) Edwards, Great Train Robber, New York Times, 5 December 1994
- Buster Edwards `too drunk' to have committed suicide, The Independent, 10 February 1995