On this day in history : 20th March 1974 – An attempt is made to kidnap Princess Anne as she and her husband Captain Mark Phillips are being driven down Pall Mall….

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Princess Anne 1974 – Photo credit: Tyne & Wear Archives and Museum via Flickr

The 23-year-old Princess and her husband were being chauffeur-driven back to Buckingham Palace after attending a charity event…. It was around 8pm when a white Ford Escort blocked their way, forcing the Rolls Royce to stop…. A man got out of the Ford, brandishing two handguns…. The Princess’s body-guard, Inspector James Beaton and the chauffeur, Alex Callender attempted to apprehend the man – but both were shot…. Despite his injuries Inspector Beaton got to his feet to try and stop the gunman again – and again….in total he was shot three times…. Also shot was a passer-by who tried to help – tabloid journalist, Brian McConnell….

The gunman then forced his way into the Rolls Royce…. He ordered Princess Anne out – to which she replied….“not bloody likely”…. She did eventually get out though and as the gunman followed after her another passer-by, former boxer Ron Russell, who had positioned his car to stop the Ford from escaping, struck the gunman on the back of the head…. Russell was then able to lead the Princess to safety….

Meanwhile, after hearing gun shots PC Michael Hills had rushed to the scene – he tried to detain the gunman – but was himself to be shot in the stomach…. The gunman attempted to run but was pursued by Detective Constable Peter Edmonds, who brought him to the ground and managed to disarm him….

The gunman was Ian Ball, a 26-year-old unemployed labourer, who suffered from a mental illness…. When his car was searched handcuffs, tranquillisers and a ransom note were found…. The note was addressed to the Queen and demanded that £2 million be paid to the National Health Service…. Ball later claimed he did it to highlight the lack of mental health care available…. He was prosecuted for attempted murder and received a sentence of life imprisonment – and was placed in a psychiatric hospital…. His remains the closest attempt anyone has ever made on abducting a member of the royal family….

All four men who were shot thankfully recovered…. Inspector James Beaton later received the George Cross….whilst PC Michael Hills and Ron Russell were given the George Medal…. Chauffeur Alex Callender, journalist Brian McConnell and Detective Constable Peter Edmonds were all awarded the Queen’s Gallantry Medal for their bravery….

Russell later revealed that the Queen had said to him as he received his award….“The medal is from the Queen, the thank you is from Anne’s mother”….

 

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