As Queen Elizabeth greeted fans in Dunedin on the South Island of New Zealand on Oct. 14, 1981, New Zealand teenager Christopher John Lewis took aim at the British monarch from a building and fired one round from a rifle.
Through the release of a historical memo, the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (SIS) confirmed on March 1 that Lewis “did indeed originally intend to assassinate the queen.”
“He confessed to me, and another detective,” former detective Tom Lewis (no relation) tells WHO. “He was a psychopath. His mates said he was practising his shooting so he could get her.”
On the day Lewis intended to fulfil that dream—in a bid to become, as he told his lawyer, “New Zealand’s greatest criminal”—the 17-year-old pedalled his bicycle to a seven-storey building near the parade route.
Lewis, who was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic and who had previously embarked on a crime spree of burglary and armed-robbery with two friends, parked his bike and climbed the stairs to the fifth floor.
There, he entered a toilet cubicle in a bathroom, took out a .22 calibre rifle that he had wrapped in a pair of jeans, unlatched a window and waited for the then 54-year-old Queen to pass.
“I wanted to find a good place to get her from,” Lewis would later tell police.
In his confession, Lewis, who took his own life while in prison on a murder charge in 1997, revealed he had earlier lined up to shoot the Queen from a different position as she was greeting people on a street, but two policeman stepped in his line of sight.
“He said, ‘I had my finger on the trigger… and they walked in the way,’” says Tom. “They were two police officers who stood between him and the Queen. They saved her life because Lewis couldn’t take the shot. He told me he had his finger on the trigger.
"It was only by luck that she wasn’t killed. I have no doubt he would have got her. When that failed he went to the second location.”
As Lewis pulled the trigger from the building, several witnesses, including police officers, heard the gunshot.
At the time, police told journalists the noise was a “sign falling.” Later, the SIS attributed it to a “firework of some description.”
According to Tom those were just some of the lies told by authorities to cover up the crime.
“We were told there would be no more royal tours,” says Tom. “That we’d be the laughing stock of the world.”
Arrested by chance as police were investigating an armed robbery, Lewis confessed to firing the weapon and was charged with possessing and firing a weapon in a public place and later sentenced to three years’ prison.
New Zealand police have launched an investigation which, “will take some time,” said a police spokesman, adding they “will share the outcome of this examination once it has been completed.”
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