We might have poisoned the All Blacks ahead of the 1995 Rugby World Cup final (thanks, Suzie – sorry not sorry), but at least we didn’t cover up an assassination attempt on the Queen.
Back in 1981 Queenie made a trip to New Zealand, where she was ferried around whilst waving at people.
It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.
During one such outing, a disturbed 17-year-old called Christopher John Lewis almost wrote his name into history. The Guardian reports:
By the age of 17, Lewis had a history of armed robbery, arson and animal torture. He idolised the Australian bandit Ned Kelly and American serial killer Charles Manson.
On Wednesday 14 October 1981, Lewis pulled on gloves and loaded his rifle inside a deserted toilet cubicle in New Zealand’s oldest city, Dunedin, aiming his scope at the Queen’s motorcade five storeys below.
Later, police found clippings on the royal family in Lewis’s squalid flat as well as a detailed map of the Queen’s route that day, with the words “Operation = Ass QUEB” written on the paper.
The Queen had just stepped out of a Rolls-Royce to greet 3,500 wellwishers when a distinctive crack rang out across the grassy reserve.
According to former Dunedin police det sgt Tom Lewis (no relation to the shooter), 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.
Well that is extremely naughty, isn’t it? The police were eager to cover up the attempt amidst fears that the Royals would never visit the country again, and they kept most of their investigation under wraps.
When they grilled Lewis, the extent of his illness became apparent:
Police interviewed the teenager eight times, during which he claimed he had been instructed to kill the Queen by an Englishman known to him as “the Snowman”, of whom Lewis was frightened.
The Snowman allegedly told Lewis 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.
Lewis later claimed to have been visited by high-ranking officials from the government in Wellington during his 13-day interrogation, and was told never to discuss the incident.
Can this story get any stranger? Of course it can, friends, because in 1983 Lewis tried to overpower a guard at a psychiatric hospital where he was being detained in order to assassinate Prince Charles.
The royal was visiting with Diana and a young Prince William, but his escape was thwarted.
More madness, you cry out, and we’re all too happy to oblige. The Royal Family visited again in 1995, and the then 31-year-old Lewis was obviously deemed a threat.
What did law enforcement do to ensure that he didn’t create any hassle? The most New Zealand thing ever:
New Zealand police dispatched him to Great Barrier Island in the north of the country, with free accommodation, daily spending money and the use of a vehicle. He was not, however, under 24-hour surveillance.
Yup, they sent him on holiday.
Lewis would kill himself in prison at the age of 33, while awaiting trial for the murder of a young mother and the kidnapping of her child, but it’s his fascination with the Royal Family that would ensure his place in history.
Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction, innit?
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