A teenager tried to kill Queen Elizabeth II when she visited New Zealand in 1981, released intelligence documents confirmed. The country’s police are now under pressure to open a fresh inquiry into the case.
Documents released by the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (SIS) confirm “severely disturbed” Christopher Lewis, 17, fired his .22 rifle at the British sovereign when she toured the South Island city of Dunedin. The bullet missed its target.
“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,” said a 1981 SIS memo declassified in February and sent to Reuters on Thursday.
“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,” the report stated. “There is a worry, however, that in court the press may make the connections between the date of the offence and the Queen’s visit.”
Lewis was not charged with attempted murder or treason, stoking claims the incident was downplayed to prevent embarrassment for New Zealand as it hosted the sovereign. The would-be assassin was instead charged with unlawful possession and discharge of a firearm.
The declassified intelligence has sparked calls for a fresh inquiry into the case. New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush has asked the deputy commissioner of national operations, Mike Clement, “to oversee an examination by current investigation staff of the relevant case file.”
Police declined to answer further questions, but said in a statement: “Given the passage of time, it is anticipated this examination of the old file and its associated material will take some time. New Zealand police will share the outcome of this examination once it has been completed.”
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