The day Queen Elizabeth II was nearly shot

Published: January 13, 2018
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PHOTO COURTESY: THE GUARDIAN

PHOTO COURTESY: THE GUARDIAN

Christopher John Lewis, a disturbed New Zealand teenager was on the verge of assassinating Queen Elizabeth II in 1981. He aimed his .22 rilfe at the British Monarch during her tour of the country.

Fortunately, the bullet missed but the 17-year-old became obsessed with wiping out the royal family according to an investigation by a reporter.

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Shortly after two years the teenager attempted to escape from a psychiatric ward and planned to murder Prince Charles whereas in 1995 he was sent on a taxpayer-funded holiday to Great Barrier Island in the north of the country, with free accommodation, daily spending money and the use of a vehicle when the monarch visited in 1995.

He eventually killed himself in prison in 1997.

Lewis developed a history of arson, animal torture and armed robbery by the age of 17. He used to idolize Ned Kelly, the Australian bandit and American serial killer Charles Manson.

On Wednesday, 14 October 1981, Lewis loaded his rifle and aimed it at the Queen’s motorcade five storeys below. However, later the police found a detailed map of the Queen’s route inside his flat with “Operation= Ass QUEB” written on the paper.

A crack rang out across the grassy reserve as soon as the Queen stepped out of her Rolls Royce to greet 3,500 wellwishers.

“Police immediately attempted to disguise the seriousness of the threat, telling the British press the noise was a council sign falling over. Later, under further questioning from reporters, they said someone had been letting off firecrackers nearby,” according to former Dunedin police det sgt Tom Lewis.

“The then prime minister Robert Muldoon feared if word got out about how close the teenager had come to killing the Queen, the royals would never again visit New Zealand,” he further added.

“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,” reads the 1981 annual police report.

After police interviewed the teenager eight times, he relayed that he was instructed to kill the Queen by an Englishman who was known to him as “snowman”.

“The snowman told me about the pro-Nazi, rightwing National Front in England, and said Lewis could be part of similar groups that were popping up in New Zealand,” alleged Lewis.

“I had been visited by high-ranking officials from the government in Wellington during his 13-day interrogation, and was told never to discuss the incident,” he further claimed.

“If I was ever to mention the events surrounding my interviews 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 than death’,” wrote Lewis in a draft autobiography that was found besides his dead body.

“I started to feel like royalty,” Lewis wrote of his 10-day exile.

“You will never get a true file on that: it was reactivated, regurgitated, bits pulled off it, other false bits put on it,” Lewis told Stuff, adding that Christopher Lewis’s original statement to police was destroyed. “They were in damage control so many times.”

“The police did not want to press charges of treason which carried the death penalty,” said Murray Hanan, his former lawyer.

“The fact an attempted assassination of the Queen had taken place in New Zealand … it was just too politically hot to handle,” said Hanan. “I think the government took the view that he is a bit nutty and has had a hard upbringing, so it won’t be too harsh.”

Once Lewis appeared in front of the court, the charges pressed against him were downgraded to possession of a firearm in a public place and discharging it.

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The attempted assassination was an embarrassment to the police protection squad apart from the government and was being quietly being forgotten.

Lewis killed himself in prison at the age of 33 as he awaited trial of murdering a mother and kidnapping her son.

“Damn,” he told her, “damn … I missed,” he told his partner about the infamous attempt to assassinate the Queen.

This article originally appeared on The Guardian

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