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AP
Queen Elizabeth II chats with children in
Hobart, Australia during her visit in 1970.

Attempt on Queen Elizabeth’s Life Revealed After 39 Years

January 29, 2009 01:33 PM
by Denis Cummings
A former detective claims that Queen Elizabeth II and her husband were nearly killed during a 1970 trip to Australia.

Queen Elizabeth Targeted in 1970

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Former New South Wales state Detective Superintendent Cliff McHardy revealed to local newspaper the Lithgow Mercury on Jan. 22 that Queen Elizabeth II was the target of an assassination attempt during her 1970 tour through Australia.

According to McHenry, a large wooden log was placed on railroad tracks on the night of April 29, within an hour before the Queen’s train was scheduled to pass. The log became stuck underneath the train, which skidded about 200 yards before coming to a stop. The Queen and her husband, Prince Philip, slept through the incident and were unharmed.

The train was moving more slowly than usual, which likely prevented disaster. “If the train had reached its normal speed it would have plunged off the tracks and into an embankment,” said McHardy.

McHardy says New South Wales police investigated the incident, questioning suspected Irish Republican Army sympathizers. Police informed the Lithgow Mercury of the incident, but the story was kept secret from the national media in order to save Australia from “embarrassment.”

“We’d received certain information from railway sources and after we raised it with the police they thought the best course of action was to take our editor at the time into their confidence,” said Len Ashworth, managing editor of the Mercury, to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

NSW police have said little about the incident since McHardy’s disclosure, releasing just one statement saying it was no longer under investigation. Many have questioned the veracity of McHardy’s account, including Dickie Arbiter, the Queen’s former press secretary.

“If indeed it did happen then it would have been a security matter and Scotland Yard would have been notified,” said Arbiter to Sky News. “But so far the Federal Police in Australia and the NSW Police have actually said nothing. If indeed something did happen then they would have been upfront and said something.”

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Background: Attempted assassinations of British monarchs

There have been many assassinations and assassination attempts against British royalty, most famously the failed 1605 Gunpowder Plot that targeted King James I of England. Queen Victoria survived no fewer than eight assassination attempts during her reign between 1837 and 1901.
Queen Elizabeth II was allegedly targeted by al-Qaida during a 2007 visit to Uganda, but the country’s security forces foiled the plot. “The terrorists had planned to hide inside two outside broadcast vans owned by the Ugandan Broadcasting Corporation and then set off bombs,” wrote The Age.

The main theory surrounding the alleged 1970 attempt in Australia is that the Queen was targeted by Australian IRA sympathizers. The IRA threatened to attack Queen Elizabeth during her 1977 visit to Northern Ireland, proclaiming that there would be a “Jubilee bomb blitz to remember.” However, the Queen was under heavy security during her visit and no assassination attempts were carried out.

The IRA made several assassination attempts against British leaders during the 1970s, 80s and 90s. It killed Lord Mountbatten, Queen Elizabeth’s uncle, in 1979, bombed Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s hotel in 1984, and launched a mortar attack on 10 Downing Street during a Cabinet meeting.
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