Charlie Wilson (criminal)

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Charles Frederick "Charlie" Wilson (30 June 1932 – 23 April 1990)[1][2] was an English career criminal. A member of the Great Train Robbery gang, of which he was treasurer, he was killed by a hitman on his doorstep in 1990 whilst living in Marbella, Spain.[1]

Early life[edit]

Wilson was born on 30 June 1932 to Bill and Mabel Wilson in Battersea, London. Possessing a heavy build, a handsome appearance and piercing blue eyes, Wilson was, from an early age, an intimidating presence. His friends from childhood included Jimmy Hussey, Tommy Wisbey, Bruce Reynolds and Gordon Goody. Later on, he met Ronald "Buster" Edwards and the young driving enthusiasts Mickey Ball and Roy James, who had taken up car theft.[1]

From 1948 to 1950 he was called up for National Service, and in 1955 he married Patricia (Pat) Osbourne, with whom he had three children.[1]

Early career[edit]

Wilson turned to crime early in life and spurned his father's legitimate but low-income wage. While he did have legitimate work in his in-laws' grocer's shop, he also was a thief and his criminal proceeds went into buying shares in various gambling enterprises. He went to jail for short spells for numerous offences.[1]

In 1960, Wilson began to work with Bruce Reynolds and planned to get into the criminal big league.[1] In 1962, a gang led by Reynolds stole £62,000 in a security van robbery at London Heathrow Airport. They then attempted to rob a Royal Mail train at Swindon, which netted only £700.[3] But Reynolds, now looking for his career-criminal defining moment,[4] started planning his next train robbery over a period of three months.[3]

Reynolds organised a gang of 17 men to undertake the Great Train Robbery (1963).[4] Wilson was the gang's treasurer who gave each of the robbers their cut of the haul: £150,000 each. He was captured quickly, and during the trial at Aylesbury Crown Court in April 1964 he got the nickname "the silent man" as he refused to say anything at all. Sentenced to 30 years, he was held at HMP Winson Green, where after just four months on 12 August 1964, he arranged for a three-man gang to break in and break him out.[2][5]

Wilson and his family settled in Rigaud, Quebec, Canada, situated 70 kilometres (43 mi) west from Montreal and 130 kilometres (81 mi) east from Ottawa.[6] For Christmas 1964, the family travelled to Acapulco to join Reynolds and Edwards, who had not yet been caught. Reynolds and his family later moved to Montreal, but a proposed theft of Canadian dollars with Wilson was stopped due to Royal Canadian Mounted Police observation. Reynolds then moved to Vancouver, before returning that summer to the South of France.[3]


Having successfully evaded capture for four years, Wilson was caught on 24 January 1968,[2] after his wife telephoned her parents in England, thus enabling Scotland Yard to track them down.[6] Returned to England, Wilson served 10 more years in the train robbers secure unit at HMP Durham. He was the final train robber to emerge from prison in 1978.[7]

Later career[edit]

A later suspect in a £100 million gold fraud, Wilson moved to Marbella, Spain, where he was suspected to be involved in drug smuggling.[6] Engaged to launder some of the proceeds from the Brink's-Mat robbery, he lost the investors £3 million.


On 23 April 1990,[2] Wilson's cousin and his wife who were staying with the Wilsons, left the house, noticing a young man with badly dyed spiky blond hair sunning himself beside his yellow bicycle on a nearby roundabout. The same man knocked on the front door of Wilson's hacienda north of Marbella, and when Pat Wilson opened the door, he asked (in a London accent) to speak to Wilson, as he had a message from Eamon, a baseball cap pulled down shielding his eyes from view. Pat got him to leave the bike near the front door, and let him go out the back yard to talk to Wilson who was preparing a barbecue dinner to celebrate his and Pat's wedding anniversary.[1][2]

After five minutes of conversation, the visitor kicked Wilson in the groin, broke his nose, and shot him twice, once in the neck and once in the head. One of Wilson's two guard dogs sustained a broken leg trying to defend its master (it later had to be put down). The killer then jumped over the back fence in the one spot where it was possible to do so and land on the ground outside safely, and circled back to the front of the house to grab the yellow bike. An accomplice pulled up in a van nearby and the killer was able to put the bike in the back and escape. The whole hit was expertly designed to take out Wilson alone, and leave his wife alive.[1][2]

Charlie's wife Pat moved back to London to live near her daughters, leaving her terrier with Gordon Goody, and her surviving guard dog with the neighbour.

It is likely that Wilson was murdered on the orders of Roy "The Lump" Adkins, with killers identified by Pat Wilson as Bill "Porky" Edmunds, with Danny "Scarface" Roff as the accomplice. The two men were known to work as a team. Adkins was furious with Wilson, that he had supposedly given 'permission' for smuggler Jimmy Rose to admit to police that a drug shipment he was carrying was owned by Adkins, who was already on the run from police. After a request from Rose, Wilson rang one of Adkins' associates, Eamon Evans, to ask whether Rose could name him. While Rose denies naming Adkins, two days after Wilson's call to Evans, police raided Adkins hideout in Amsterdam, only shortly after he had left it. Adkins, a heavy drug user as well as dealer was furious with Wilson, and would not agree to peaceful terms arranged by intermediaries. Whether or not the three men were guilty, they were widely held responsible and Adkins was himself gunned down on 28 September 1990. On 10 February 1996, Danny 'Scarface' Roff who had recently been released from prison was shot in the spine when a gunman walked into a club where he was present and sprayed him with bullets. In March 1997, a crippled Roff, now no longer able to walk, was shot dead in his car when he returned home.[8] Edmunds has survived by going on the run.[1][2]

He was buried in Streatham Cemetery in London.[9]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Wensley Clarkson (2 February 2006). Killing Charlie: The Bloody, Bullet-Riddled Hunt for the Most Powerful Great Train Robber of All. Mainstream Publishing. ISBN 1845960351.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Great train robber escapes from Prison". History Channel. 12 August 1964. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  3. ^ a b c "Obituary: Bruce Reynolds". The Guardian. 28 February 2013. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  4. ^ a b "In conversation with... Bruce Reynolds". Idler magazine. 14 March 1996. Archived from the original on 20 April 2013. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  5. ^ "1964: Great Train Robber escapes from jail". BBC News. 12 August 1964. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  6. ^ a b c Jack Harvey. "The Great Train Robbery Part II – Did it end like a Children's Tea Party?". Archived from the original on 30 January 2013. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  7. ^ "What became of the Great Train Robbers". London Evening Standard. 8 August 2003. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  8. ^
  9. ^ Douglas Greenwood, Who's Buried Where in England, Constable, London (2006) pg 345 ISBN 978-1-84529-305-5