50 Years ago today, 13th August 1963, a development was made that was going to blow the investigation into The Great Train Robbery wide open. That was the discovery of the robbers lair, Leatherslade Farm.
Now 5 days after the crime was committed, the farm was deserted… but either due a hasty departure, or a failure on some of the gang to “cleanse the scene” of any clues that might link them, an Aladdins cave of potential forensic evidence was left behind.
Although, the Fingerprint Department from New Scotland Yard were involved in the case from day 1 of the inquiry, there was very little for them to work with until the farm was found.
In total 9 of the convicted 10 robbers were identified to the farm (or evidence recovered from items found at the farm) by way of their finger and palm prints.
Probably the most infamous piece of evidence was a Monopoly game that bore the prints of Ronnie Biggs and Bruce Reynolds (the leader of the gang).
Strangely enough I have uncovered some coincidences between myself and Mr. Reynolds (who died earlier this year). He had the middle name Richard (my forename) and we were born on the same date (although I came along quite a few years later).
For more information on the fingerprint aspects of this investigation, I would recommend reading Chapter 17 (The Great Train Robbery) of the book ‘The Fingerprint Story’ by Gerald Lambourne, who was one of the fingerprint experts in the case and later took charge of the New Scotland Yard Fingerprint Bureau. The book is currently out of print, but can usually be sourced at reasonable prices on Amazon or Ebay.