If The Sun’s Biggs buy-up is indeed the greatest scoop in the history of the greatest newspaper in the world, then what ranks second? What else but The Sun’s original Biggs buy-up. Oh, how easily such triumphs are forgotten.
He had been five years on the run in Australia when the paper first arranged to buy his story, each page authenticated by his thumbprint.
Little has changed over the intervening decades. The public is still disinclined to offer the sympathy for which Biggs has always played.
And The Sun is still insisting that not actually putting money into his hot little hand makes everything all right.
Last time, it explained to the Press Council that it had set up a trust fund for his sons. But did this not enable the family to profit from Dad’s crime? Did it not reduce their calls on his loot? Such critics (not all outside the paper) were denounced for "believing that the sins of the fathers should be visited on the children."
Next month, the Press Complaints Commission will rule on whether public interest justifies the fees or expenses or whatever paid to or through whomever for the current scoop. How much was involved, The Sun is not saying, though "his initial demands bordered on the absurd".
The newspaper can fairly claim that the nation is served by the return of a fugitive convict (albeit sampling champagne and lobster aboard a private jet and landing in a Sun T-shirt). And Foreign Secretary Robin Cook did endorse the enterprise with an instant passport (and is rewarded by The Sun nominating George Clooney to play him in the film of the scoop).
But pro bono publico? Or pro bono Currant Bunico?
The paper did its dazzling damnedest to keep its scoop from those of the public unready to pay 30p per instalment. Nothing wrong with that, of course, unless you insist your mission was to serve God, Queen, Country, Justice and Marmite.
As the PCC assembles its file, Media Guardian reports a severe backlash from Sun readers. A phone poll showed 52 per cent against mercy for the shambling, dribbling old villain surrendering to the NHS after "30 crazy years of sun, sea, sand and sex".
Still, maybe the next Biggs caper will be a get-out-of-jail-free card followed by a miraculous recovery and an exclusive of The Great Sun Robber back on Copacabana beach, hugging his Brazilian family and raising a tequila to the kindest newspaper in the world.