Detectives spread the net far and wide after the Great Train Robbers struck 60 years ago this week.

The gang of ruthless thugs held up the Glasgow to London mail train in the dead of night at Cheddington, Buckinghamshire, on August 8, 1963, attacked driver Jack Mills and other staff and escaped with £2.6m (about £45m at today’s prices).

It was a story that gripped the nation. Police began a massive hunt for the robbers, whose hideout, a remote unoccupied farmhouse at Leatherslade Farm, near Oakley, was found five days later.

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In their search for clues, they interviewed, among many others, an Oakley schoolboy, Alan Walker, and an Oxford widow, Ida Pope.

Nine-year-old Alan collected car numbers and police took several pages of his book to see whether he had jotted down the numbers of vehicles used by the gang.

Meanwhile, Mrs Pope, 63, was questioned about two “well-behaved and respectful” men, who arrived at her home in Edith Road, South Oxford, with three suitcases the day after the robbery and paid a week’s rent with two £5 notes.

They left after two nights, saying they had found somewhere else to stay.

It is not thought either inquiry produced any significant evidence.

When the robbers’ lair was discovered, the Oxford Mail team of reporters and photographers, led by news editor Ralph Brain, was first on the scene.

He later recalled: “There was only one thing to do – get the Oakley as fast as we could. We had no office transport then. I had just taken delivery of a new Wolseley 1500 saloon. Three of us piled in and I tested it to the limit.

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“We were miles ahead of other reporters getting to the place and ahead in picking up people who could tell us about the farm.”

The Mail published a comprehensive story in its late final edition that day.

Earlier, herdsman John Marris had telephoned police to report a gang of suspicious men coming and going at Leatherslade Farm.

Village policeman John Woolley and his sergeant went to investigate. Their suspicions grew when they saw the farmhouse windows covered in sacking and two Land Rovers with the same registration number.

The criminals, among them Bruce Reynolds and Ronnie Biggs, were jailed for up to 30 years. Jack Mills, the train driver they coshed, never recovered and died a broken man.