Great Train Robber Bruce was stuff Bay legends are made of
BRUCE Reynolds, the career criminal who linked Torquay to one of the 20th century's most infamous crimes, has died. Reynolds was the mastermind behind the £2.6million Great Train Robbery in 1963.
He went on the run but was captured five years later, living the life of a respectable family man on the English Riviera.
Flying Squad officers descended on an address in Braddons Hill Road and arrested Reynolds while he lay in bed.
His death at the age of 81 closes a chapter on the crime which briefly brought Torquay to the nation's attention.
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Bruce Reynolds was born in London in September, 1931.
He started his criminal activities while still young and saw the opportunity of robbing the cash-laden mail train as the pinnacle of his career.
"It was something I had been looking for all my life," Reynolds recounted many years later.
The haul from the raid by the 15-man gang was a record at that time.
Reynolds was credited with being the main strategist behind the robbery and pocketed about £150,000 before fleeing to Mexico with his family.
For five years he evaded capture but decided to return to England, heading for Devon where he had enjoyed holidays as a child.
For four weeks, while looking for a permanent base, Reynolds stayed at Tudor House, in Dawlish Street, Teignmouth and mixed with regulars at the Kings Arms.
He eventually moved into Villa Cap Martin in Braddons Hill Road East, on the hill above Torquay town centre.
The family became part of the community, Mrs Reynolds going to keep-fit and dress-making classes at South Devon College.
Reynolds' cover was finally blown when he made the mistake of returning to his old haunts in London.
Police made the link between Reynolds and a Keith Hiller living in Torquay. They were, of course, one and the same person.
Flying Squad officers hurried west with local police only being informed of the imminent raid at the last minute.
As the Daily Express reported the following day: "It was just before 6 o'clock on a dark, dank morning that Reynolds — with the dew still in his eyes — heard a knock on the door."
The officers were greeted by Reynolds' sleepy six-year-old son.
They proceeded up the stairs to find Reynolds in his bedroom.
"Good morning Reynolds," announced Chief Supt Thomas Butler.
It was the end of a five-year hunt, that the senior policeman had come out of partial retirement to complete.
Most of the money was never found.
Reynolds served nine years for his part in the Great Train Robbery and after his release became a crime 'celebrity' appearing on TV programmes about the episode.
Such was the public interest in his crime that Reynolds' movements while on the run went down in local Torquay legend.
Many years later, Herald Express reporter Conrad Sutcliffe spoke to Reynolds about one such legend.
"The story goes that rather than draw attention to himself for having an unpaid parking ticket, Reynolds walked into the police station bold as brass and paid the ticket," said Sutcliffe.
"It is one of those stories everyone wants to believe, but it isn't true.
"I asked him during an interview on the phone and he said he didn't have a Mini, didn't remember getting a parking ticket — and if he had the last place he would have gone was anywhere near a police station."
In 2003, Reynolds was guest of honour at a fete in Oakley, Buckinghamshire, the scene of his crime which he acknowledged had become part of the nation's history.
"It had those elements of fantasy — I was brought up on Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Jesse James," Reynolds said later.
"Other crimes have got their points, but for the audacity of it and the way it captured the public's imagination it's up there."
Reynolds is survived by his son Nick, who reported his father's death after a short illness on February 28.