How Charlie Wilson's pact with Escobar helped get UK hooked on cocaine

The Great Train Robber and the Colombian drug lord: How Charlie Wilson’s secret pact with notorious cartel boss Pablo Escobar helped get Britain hooked on cocaine

  • A new book explores the less well-known latter half of Charlie Wilson’s career 
  • Wilson, known as one of the Great Train Robbers, had links to Pablo Escobar 
  • Book claims Wilson began distributing cocaine in Europe and the UK for cartel 

A new book explores the extraordinary story of how the infamous Great Train Robber Charlie Wilson secured a secret deal with drug kingpin Pablo Escobar to bring cocaine into the UK. 

Secret Narco: The Great Train Robber whose partnership with Pablo Escobar turned Britain on to cocaine by Wensley Clarkson explores the less famous chapter of Charlie Wilson’s criminal career leading up to his assassination in 1990. 

In chapters published in the Mirror, the book reveals how Wilson met a Columbian drug dealer while in Parkhurst Prison in 1972 while he was serving his 10-year sentence for the Great Train Robbery of 1963.


A new book has revealed how infamous Great Train Robber Charlie Wilson later became Pablo Escobar’s distributor for the UK and Europe before he was assassinated in 1990

The Great Train Robbery of 1963 

The Great Train Robbery saw £2.6 million stolen from a Royal Mail train travelling between Glasgow and London on the West Coast Mainline.

It took place in the early hours of August 8 when the train was near Buckinghamshire and the haul would be the equivalent of £55 million today.

A gang of 15 men – of which Charlie Wilson was treasurer – tampered with signals to bring the train to a halt before boarding and making off with the cash.

No one was killed but train driver Jack Mills was beaten over the head so severely he never fully recovered.

After the robbery, the gang hid at Leatherslade Farm.

Wilson was the gang’s treasurer who gave each of the robbers their cut of the haul: £150,000 each.

He was captured quickly, and in 1964 was handed 30 years in prison but broke out just four months into his sentence. 

Wilson fled with his wife to Canada and evaded capture for four years before being apprehended and jailed in 1968 

The train involved in the 1963 robbery

While Wilson, who was born in Battersea, initially looked down on the Columbian – as he did not consider drug dealing a ‘real’ criminal enterprise – the south American proved to be quite persuasive about the economic benefits of smuggling and selling cocaine.

When Wilson was released from prison in 1978, he moved with his wife Pat to the Costa del Sol, in Spain, and became a key financial backer to a hash-trafficking operation.

The scale of his activity meant he was already on the radar of Columbian drug lord Pablo Escobar and with pressure mounting in the US, Escobar was looking at Europe for opportunities to expand his international drug enterprise.

Clarkson writes how in late 1984, US law enforcement agents matched Wilson’s description to a man who flew into Bogota from Europe and then travelled to Pablo Escobar’s estate, the Hacienda Nápoles.

The estate included an exotic zoo, a private airport and even a kart-racing track.

But, according to Clarkson, the first meeting between the pair did not go well and Wilson ended up storming out.

Despite this, the pair managed to reach a two-year agreement that meant Wilson would buy and distribute cocaine on a vast scale across the UK.

He would also handle big shipments destined for other parts of western Europe. 

Wilson soon began to live the fast live, spending his vast fortune and reportedly became hooked on drugs.

Associates of Wilson claim he failed to take Pablo Escobar seriously and was unconcerned with any possible repercussions of crossing him. 

Then, on April 23, 1990, Wilson was gunned down in the back garden of his Spanish home while his wife Pat was inside the home.

A man knocked on the front door of Wilson’s home, and when Pat Wilson opened the door, he asked in a London accent to speak to Wilson, as he had a message, a baseball cap pulled down shielding his eyes from view. 

Pat got him to leave the bike near the front door, and let him go out the back yard to talk to Wilson who was preparing a dinner to celebrate his and Pat’s wedding anniversary.  


Wensley Clarkson’s book claims Pablo Escobar’s first meeting with Charlie Wilson was hostile and that Wilson eventually stormed out of Escobar’s home before agreeing a two-year deal

After five minutes of conversation, the visitor kicked Wilson in the groin, broke his nose, and shot him twice, once in the neck and once in the head.

He died aged 58. 

Although no-one has ever been convicted of his murder, it is a strongly held belief that he was killed on the order of rival London gangster Roy Adkins. 

Clarkson’s book goes on to say that news of Narco Charlie’s assassination was met with ‘a shrug of the shoulders’ by Pablo Escobar and claims Escobar had given permission for the hit to go ahead despite not being directly involved.

Drug dealer Pablo Escobar at one point had a reported fortune of £19 billion, making him one of the wealthiest men in the world.

He died, aged 44, after a shootout with Colombian police in 1993. 

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