40 years ago today, Princess Anne and her then husband Captain Mark Phillips escaped a kidnap attempt during which four people were injured. The royal couple was returning to Buckingham Palace along The Mall when their Rolls-Royce was made to stop by another car which obstructed their route.
Suddenly a man emerged from a car and fired six shots. It was reported the shots were not directed at the couple but it left four people injured and in hospital.
The Princess’s protection officer, Inspector James Beaton got off a shot at the man before he was wounded and Alex Callender, one of The Queen’s senior drivers and chauffeur for the evening was also injured. Both were taken to Westminster Hospital and underwent successful surgery.
The two other individuals wounded were a police officer who came to investigate and was hit in the stomach and a passenger in a bypassing taxi was also wounded.
The Princess’s Lady-in-waiting, Rowena Brassey, was present when the man jumped out of the vehicle and opened fire before attempting to hop into the Princess’s vehicle. A police officer pursued the man and tackled him to the ground before arresting him.
Ian Ball, a 26-year-old man, was charged and taken into custody for interrogation. It soon became known the shooting was an attempt to kidnap on Princess Anne and hold her to ransom. The discovery of the plot was made when a letter written by the assailant was found. The note was addressed to Queen Elizabeth and demanded £3m for Her Majesty’s daughter’s release.
Ball was prosecuted for the attempted murder of the princess’s detective, and numerous offences under the Offences Against the Person Act. He was sentenced to be detained ‘during Her Majesty’s pleasure’ under the Mental Health act – he remains in custody to this day.
The attempt to abduct Princess Anne to this day is the closest attempt anybody has made on kidnapping a member of the Royal Family.
At the time The Queen and Prince Philip were on a state visit to Indonesia when they learned about the attack.
Jim Beaton, the Princess’s protection officer, was given the highest civilian decoration, the George Cross by The Queen a few months after the incident. PC Michael Hills and Ron Russell were awarded the George Medal and Alex Callender, Brian McConnell and DC Peter Edmonds were awarded The Queen’s Gallantry Medal.
photo credit: 4 Cdn Div/4 Div CA – JTFC/FOIC via photopin cc
I remember seeing an interview she and her husband did where they were asked about the attempt. When she described the conversation that took place between her and the kidnapper as he was trying to get her out of the car, I couldn’t help but laugh. She said, “He said I had to go with him. I can’t remember why, but I said I didn’t think I’d like to go with him, thank you very much.” Strong willed, yet cordial even when being kidnapped. She’s definitely the Queen’s daughter.
It was a nice touch on Queen Elizabeth’s part when she awarded the medal to Mr. Beaton and said ” thank you from Anne’s mother”. All the people who got involved that night are heroes.
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