A hammer-wielding alleged thief who tried to steal the Magna Carta claimed he plotted the smash-and-grab because of lurking suspicions the 800-year-old document is fake, a court heard today.
Mark Royden, 47, meticulously schemed his daring raid of Salisbury Cathedral by scouting out CCTV cameras and examining a floor plan, jurors were told.
After setting off the fire alarm to spark pandemonium, the hooded thief is claimed to have smashed through the protective glass, but retreated when he found it too tough to shatter.
His escape was foiled by ‘good-spirited’ onlookers who tackled Royden to the ground despite him allegedly brandishing the hammer menacingly.
Jurors were told Royden was stopped from fleeing when he was pursued and ‘bear-hugged’.
Mark Royden, 47, (pictured arriving at court this morning) meticulously schemed his daring raid of Salisbury Cathedral
American tourist Matt Delcambre and his wife Alexis gave evidence to Salisbury Crown Court through a live video link in Louisiana.
Following his arrest, Royden made a statement ‘doubting the authenticity’ of the 1215 scroll.
Royden, of Canterbury, Kent, denies attempting to steal the priceless Magna Carta and causing £14,466 worth of criminal damage to the safety glass in October 2018.
Yet Salisbury Crown Court was told today his finely-tuned blueprint to snatch the document was only scuppered by brave bystanders including stonemason Gary Price and American tourists, Mr and Mrs Delcambre who chased him down
Mr Delcambre said: ‘The male started to run so I was running after him because I was worried he would keep on going.
‘There was workers in the yard so I yelled for them to come over… I grabbed the male by the arm and one of the workers came over and bear-hugged him.
The plan to snatch the document was only scuppered by brave bystanders including stonemason Gary Price and American tourists, Mr and Mrs Delcambre (pictured) who chased him down
The damaged case at the time that housed the Magna Carta at Salisbury Cathedral
‘The hammer fell to the ground and I kicked it around 15ft away.’
Prosecutor Rob Welling, opening the week-long trial, said: ‘On October 25 in 2018 for reasons best known to the defendant he set out to steal the Magna Carta from Salisbury Cathedral.
‘His attempt failed for two reasons – the safety glass protecting such an important, historic document was too tough for the tool he brought and he didn’t bank on there being so many good-spirited visitors and staff prepared to intervene.
‘His defence is that whoever set out to steal it was not him, that he was in the wrong place at the same time. This is a desperate attempt to avoid the consequences.
‘He had planned this, he went to quite some length, he familiarised himself with the layout, where the Magna Carta would be and identified cameras and the route he would enter and leave without being seen or recorded.
‘He knew where a fire alarm would be situated by a nearby toilet block, which he could set off as a distraction.
‘He planned it late in the day just before it closed as he knew it would be quiet and wore a hooded top to hide his face.
‘He took safety glasses, a hammer and gloves to protect himself from the security glass and to avoid leaving fingerprints.
Gary Price, who works at Salisbury Cathedral, leaving Salisbury Crown Court, today. He helped try and stop the incident
Royden, of Canterbury, Kent, denies attempting to steal the priceless Magna Carta and causing £14,466 worth of criminal damage to the safety glass in October 2018 (pictured today)
Salisbury Cathedral, Wilts, where the best preserved copy of the Magna Carta is kept
‘His last act was to move a camera which he believed would hide his actions.’
Mr Welling said Royden ‘seriously miscalculated’ his plan and showed CCTV footage from the camera he moved, appearing to show an individual approach the Magna Carta.
Mr Welling said during his escape Royden ‘raised his hammer in a threatening manner’ and told people to ‘f*** off’.
Describing the unsuccessful escape, he added: ‘There was a scuffle between two people and Royden to hold the door.
The Magna Carta, signed by King John in 1215, enshrined the rule of law and is considered one of the most important documents in history. Pictured is the damage to the case that houses it
‘Royden gave up and fled and came up running back to the doors he entered through.
‘But by now another person, an American tourist, was in chase and with the help of the two others they came up and restrained him until police arrived.’
It was heard Royden told them he ‘would’ve got a medal for what he had done’ and ‘could have done more damage with a samurai sword’.
Bystander Mr Price reported smelling alcohol on his breath.
Mr Welling added: ‘Royden made some odd comments about Muslims, Tasers and an object strapped to his back. He said someone had rubbed the hammer on him, so it had his DNA on it.’
Salisbury Cathedral’s priceless 800-year-old copy is the best preserved of only four surviving original exemplars in the world
Royden made a ‘prepared statement’ to police. It read: ‘You cannot talk to me about the Holy Grail.
‘If you find a bag on the floor which says ‘cocaine’ on it, you would have to test it forensically.
‘As for your Holy Grail, you would need a carbon test and a trace element test.
‘Places you go to and churches all over the world claim to have artefacts.’
His statement also referred to a church he visited which did not have an item it claimed to have.
Mr Welling added: ‘It looked like he had doubts over the authenticity of the Magna Carta, which makes you think he has seen it before.’
Cathedral outreach worker Leigh Chalmers told jurors: ‘He had a dark hoodie and was hunched down walking quite purposefully.
‘I remember thinking: ‘I don’t recognise you’.
‘He didn’t look lost, he looked like somebody who knew where he was going.’
Speaking about the moments after the incident, she added: ‘Someone shouted ‘he’s trying to steal the Magna Carta, stop him!”
Once he was restrained, Ms Chalmers said Royden exclaimed ‘your security is s***’.
Royden denies criminal damage after allegedly causing £14,466 worth of damage to the safety glass and attempting to steal the priceless Magna Carta.
He arrived at Salisbury Crown Court today wearing a baseball cap, jeans, and a blue jumper which appeared to show support for the RNLI’s text donation line.
The Magna Carta, signed by King John in 1215, enshrined the rule of law and is considered one of the most important documents in history.
Salisbury Cathedral’s priceless 800-year-old copy is the best preserved of only four surviving original exemplars in the world.
Royden, of Canterbury, Kent, has been granted bail but cannot enter Salisbury Cathedral or its grounds.
The trial continues.