Fact: Queen Elizabeth II visited New Zealand in 1981. Another fact, but you’ve never heard it until now: she was almost murdered there.
Top secret documents recently declassified at Fairfax’s request reveal a government cover-up of an assassination attempt on New Zealand soil. 17-year-old local Christopher Lewis attempted to kill the Queen when she visited Dunedin, the Sydney Morning Herald reports, firing at her from a public toilet cubicle on the fifth floor of a building overlooking her parade. Thankfully, he missed his mark.
“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,” a 1997 memo states.
New Zealand’s intelligence agency has confirmed the news, Reuters reports, prompting a fresh police investigation into how the matter was handled.
At the time, Lewis, who the documents describe as “severely disturbed”, was charged with unlawful possession and discharge of a firearm, not attempted murder or treason, and was sentenced to just three years’ jail.
“Current police investigations into the shots have been conducted discreetly and most media representatives probably have the impression that the noise was caused by a firework of some description,” reads a November 1981 memo released this week.
After he was released from prison, Lewis continued to commit a string of crimes, one of which involved a “mass police manhunt”, according to Stuff NZ, and was eventually charged with murder and abducting a baby girl. He took his own life in prison in 1997, at the age of 33.