Wiltshire

'Would-be-thief doubted' Magna Carta authenticity

Magna Carta at Salisbury Cathedral Image copyright PA Media
Image caption The Magna Carta is displayed inside the medieval Chapter House at Salisbury Cathedral

A man tried to steal a copy of the Magna Carta from Salisbury Cathedral using a hammer because he "doubted its authenticity", a court heard.

Mark Royden, of Canterbury, Kent, is accused of smashing the case to take the 800-year-old document in 2018.

Tourists and a member of cathedral staff tried to contain Mr Royden, 47, within a set of glass doors but he threatened them with a hammer, Salisbury Crown Court heard.

He denies all charges against him.

Rob Welling, prosecuting, told jurors the actions of "good-spirited" members of the public - including some American tourists - prevented his escape after the attempted theft on 25 October 2018.

Mr Welling added the protective safety glass was "just too tough for the tool he brought".

'Please, please stop him'

Leigh Chalmers, a cathedral outreach worker, told the court how she and others struggled with Mr Royden and the glass door before chasing him out of the cathedral.

She said: "The Americans were shouting, 'he's trying to steal the Magna Carta - stop him', I was saying, 'please, please stop him'."

She added: "I was being brave, not stupid."

The court heard how Mr Royden escaped through a goods yard and was chased and caught by stonemasons working at the cathedral.

Mr Welling added: "He made some other comments about Muslims, Tasers and having some object strapped to his back."

The prosecutor added the defendant made comments that he should "get a medal for what he had done" and "he could have done more damage if he had a samurai sword".

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Salisbury Cathedral staff gave chase to the accused, the court heard

Mr Welling said that Mr Royden made an "odd prepared statement" to police while smelling of alcohol and added: "It appears he is doubting the authenticity of the Magna Carta."

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 said Mr Royden had planned the attempted theft, having scoped out CCTV cameras and a fire alarm to set off as a distraction.

He had also brought with him yellow gloves, safety goggles and the hammer, the court was told.

Mr Royden denies a charge of attempted theft and a second count of criminal damage to the security case costing £14,466.

The trial continues.

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