New Zealand authorities have confirmed there was assassination attempt on The Queen during her visit in 1981, which was seemingly covered up to prevent security concerns that might have jeopardised future royal visits.
An investigation has been launched today, thanks to the revelations from the country’s Security Intelligence Service.
Tom Lewis, an ex-Dunedin detective sergeant, has alleged that a teenager shot at Her Majesty as she was exiting a car at the Otago Museum Reserve; his shots came yards from hitting her. The story broke weeks ago, but until now was unverified.
Christopher John Lewis, then 17, was responsible for the shots, but was mentally unstable, Mr Lewis says.
The police and New Zealand Government appear to have colluded to hide the incident from the public and royal security, out of fear that the near-miss would prevent The Monarch from returning.
A report from the visit notes that, ‘The discharge of a firearm during the visit of Her Majesty The Queen serves to remind us all of the potential risks to royalty, particularly during public walks’.
But police attempted to disguise the distinctive noise of gun fire, initially claiming it was a sign falling over, before switching the story to someone playing with firecrackers. The Queen seemed quite unaware of the noise.
However, documents from the country’s intelligence agency have today confirmed the incident was an assassination attempt: “Lewis did indeed originally intend to assassinate The Queen, however did not have a suitable vantage point from which to fire, nor a sufficiently high-powered rifle for the range from the target,” said a 1997 SIS memo, that was declassified in February and sent to Reuters on Thursday.
The Queen was also shot at during Trooping the Colour of 1981, when a Marcus Serjeant fired blanks at her as she rode her horse down the Mall. The horse spooked, but she managed to calm him down as police took down the attacker.
Would-be assailant Lewis was taken to court, but instead was charged with unlawful possession and discharge of a firearm; his autobiography draft, however, claims government officials visited him regularly: “If I was ever to mention the events surrounding my interview or the organisation, or that I was in the building, or that I was shooting from it – that they would make sure I ‘suffered a fate worse that death’”, he wrote.
He was jailed for three years for the firearm offence, spending the final year of the term in a psychiatric ward. In 1983, he was found to be planning to murder Prince Charles, an in 1995, he was looking into The Queen’s travel routes for her visit in 1995.
Lewis’ end was not a happy one: after numerous other charges, including burglaries and the suspected murder of a young woman and kidnap of her child, he committed suicide in 1997.