On Saturday morning, 10 August, the gang members started to hide and “bank” their cash. Goody buried his money under concrete slabs in his garden. Some gang members even headed in to the West End of London to celebrate.
All the television sets and newspaper boards were about the robbery. So were the Sunday papers that were looking for someone to blame, be it the railways, the post office, or the government. But there was no news in the press about the hideout that by now should have been cleaned or torched.
Police records show that they were given the name of Bobbie Welch early on as one of the possible robbers. Thirteen key locations were searched by the police based on information from informants.
On Monday, 12 August a farm worker called the police to report the lorry and Land Rovers at Leatherslade Farm. His call was one of over 400 calls logged at the police command centre in Aylesbury that Monday alone.
Concerned about no news of the farm, Reynolds, Edwards, Wilson and James met at a transport café on the North Circular. They considered going back down to the farm to take care of it themselves, but the farm worker had persisted and called the police again. Leatherslade Farm had already been discovered by PC John Woolley at 10.50 am that Monday morning.
“We found the farm pretty much as they had left it,” Woolley recalled. “Their vehicles were still in the yard, their foodstuffs in the kitchen, and the cellar was full of empty mailbags, overalls and masks.” Fewtrell told the media: “The whole place is one big clue.”
The evening papers told the gang that the farm, their hideout, had been found. Reports also mentioned that Detective Chief Inspector Tommy Butler, the Grey Fox, had been brought in to head up the investigation.
The first arrests following the robbery were made as early as 9 pm on the Wednesday evening. Roger Cordrey, who was being helped by his friend, Bill Boal, was arrested while putting his train robbery share in a rented lock up in Bournemouth. It was his bad luck that it was owned by a police widow who was suspicious that Cordrey was happy to pay three months in advance, and pay in cash. Cordrey would plead guilty at the trial.
Mary Manson (“Cockney Mary”) was also arrested while shopping and was charged with receiving, while Fewtrell paid Brian Field a visit at his home having traced his links to the purchase of Leatherslade Farm. The police had started a three-day examination of the farm. 243 photographs were taken of 311 fingerprints and 56 palm prints.
At 9 am on 16 August a suitcase with £100,000 was found in Dorking Woods. It belonged to Brian Field. A dress shop in Reigate was also suspicious of a lady customer paying with dirty £1 notes. The customer was traced to Clovelly Caravan Site at Boxhill in Surrey. A caravan belonging to Jimmy White was found with £30,440 cash from the train robbery hidden in it.
The lorry and Land Rovers were finally moved from the farm to Aylesbury police station on 19 August. Charlie Wilson was arrested at his home on 22 August. He was the first major player in Reynolds’ firm to be charged. Wilson’s fingerprints had been found on the kitchen windowsill, Saxa salt drum, and the cellophane wrapping of a Johnson’s First Aid Travel Kit. Mug shots on wanted posters were put out that same day with Reynolds, White, James, Edwards and Wilson featured.
Charges for those arrested were made at Linslade Magistrate Court. The prisoners were then moved on to HMP Bedford.
During a visit to Leicester, Gordon Goody was arrested at the Grand Hotel on 23 August and dragged from his bed at 2 am. Ironically the hotel receptionist had mistaken Goody for Bruce Reynolds. He was held overnight in Leicester before being taken to Aylesbury and interviewed by Butler. But with no evidence against him, Goody was released and Butler even drove him home to Putney.
That same day, at 6.45 pm, Inspector Basil Morris and Sergeant Church visited Biggs at Alpine Road in Redhill looking for Reynolds. Reynolds was actually house hunting in the Midlands for a place to hide. Since the robbery he had been hidden in a house in Albert Mews, off the Gloucester Road.
On 4 September Detective Inspector Frank Williams arrested Biggs at his house. He was taken to Scotland Yard where Butler questioned him. His fingerprints had been found on a blue-edged Pyrex plate and a bottle of ketchup.
Goody visited Wilson in prison. He told Wilson and Biggs that the message from Reynolds is that they should use George Stanley to defend them.
Gang members continued to be arrested and charged. Next, on 7 September, it was the turn of Jim Hussey. The evidence was a palm print on the lorry. On 10 September Tommy Wisbey was arrested. The evidence was fingerprints on an attachment to the bath. On 14 September it was Leonard Field, arrested as the purchaser of Leatherslade Farm.
Fewtrell visited Brian Field and over a cup of tea tricked him into admitting a German hotel bill was his. Fewtrell had found the receipt in the bag in Dorking Woods. Field was arrested.
On 3 October, Goody was re-arrested and his shoes were used as the evidence to charge him, with claims that the yellow paint on them came from the farm. To this day Goody, who has never denied the part he played in the robbery, says the shoes never went anywhere near the farm. The same yellow paint was used to convict Bill Boal as it was said to have been found on his watch. The only problem was that Bill Boal never went to Leatherslade Farm.
A week later a man called Walter Smith was arrested and charged with receiving £2000 of train robbery money, followed on 17 October by John Wheater. On 26 October Bob Welch was arrested. The evidence was a palm print found on a pipkin of ale left in a cupboard in the farm.
In November two policemen stumbled upon Reynolds and his wife when they were asking about a ladder that was propped up against the wall of the house. Frances opened door, but Reynolds had the presence of mind to take off his clothes and play the cheating husband. The embarrassed police left the cheating couple alone.
Goody, Wilson and Biggs now started to look at options as to how to escape from HMP Bedford.
On 3 December John Daly was arrested in Eaton Square. He was dressed the part in a bowler hat, city suit and sported a prodigious black beard. The evidence was fingerprints on the Monopoly board. Roy James was tracked to his mews flat in St Johns Wood on 10 December, and arrested after a spectacular roof top chase. Evidence was prints on a plate and Johnson’s First Aid Travel Kit.
Buster Edwards left England for Antwerp and moved on to Cologne. Jimmy White fled to Tangier.
George Stanley confirmed to Wilson and Biggs that the main evidence against the gang was indeed fingerprints at the farm. Stanley told Wilson and Biggs to come up with a reason as to why they might have visited the farm that is not connected to the robbery. Biggs would famously say he had gone to build a whipping post for kinky parties.
Butler told the media that now he had 19 people in custody, he was ready to start the court case. In fact only 9 of the 16 people at the track were in custody (Wilson, Goody, James, Daly, Biggs, Cordrey, Wisbey, Welch, Hussey).
Gang members were moved to the hospital wing of HMP Aylesbury for the trial to begin. Experienced prison guards were brought in to “babysit” the gang. Goody, Wilson and Biggs worked on an escape plan. The escape plan very nearly came off, but Bill Boal lost his nerve on the night. All the privileges were withdrawn and items smuggled in were confiscated.
Next: The Trial