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Man who tried to steal Magna Carta from Salisbury Cathedral ‘doubted its authenticity’, court hears

31 January 2020

Mark Royden denied one charge of attempted theft of the map


Mark Royden, pictured in July 2019

Mark Royden, pictured in July 2019

A MAN who tried to smash open the case holding Salisbury Cathedral’s copy of Magna Carta later told police that he “doubted its authenticity”.

The man, Mark Royden, launched his hammer attack in October 2018, but was thwarted by the map’s safety-glass case and cathedral staff and American tourists who inter­vened. He escaped when he threat­ened them with his hammer and fled through a goods yard, but was de­­tained by cathedral stonemasons.

This week, a jury at Salisbury Crown Court was told that Mr Royden said that he should “get a medal for what he had done”, and that “he could have done more damage if he had a samurai sword.” Rob Welling, prosecuting, said: “He also talked about ‘Muslims, Tasers, and having some object strapped to his back’. He smelled of alcohol, and made an ‘odd, prepared statement’ to police.

“His comments included: ‘You can’t talk to me about the Holy Grail, so to speak. If you find a bag on the floor which says “cocaine” on it, you would have to test that bag forensically. As for your Holy Grail, you would need a carbon test and a trace element test.’” Mr Welling continued: “It appears he is doubting the authenticity of the Magna Carta.”

Mr Royden, aged 47, from Can­ter­bury, Kent, denied one charge of attempted theft of the map, and a second of causing £14,466-worth of criminal damage to its case. Mr Welling said that his defence — that it was not him, that he was in the wrong place at the same time — was “a desperate attempt to avoid the consequences”.

Mr Royden had allegedly scouted out the positions of CCTV cameras and the cathedral layout, then, wearing gloves, safety glasses, and a hood, set off a fire alarm to cause confusion.

Giving evidence, a cathedral outreach worker, Leigh Chalmers, said that she and others struggled with Mr Royden before chasing him out of the cathedral. She said: “The Americans were shouting: ‘He’s trying to steal the Magna Carta! Stop him!’”

The trial continues.

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