Michael Fagan incident

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Michael Fagan (born 8 August 1948) broke into Buckingham Palace and entered Queen Elizabeth II's bedroom in 1982.[1] The incident was one of the 20th century's worst royal security breaches.[2]

Biography[edit]

Beginnings[edit]

Michael Fagan was born in Clerkenwell, London, on 8 August 1948,[1] the son of Ivy and Michael Fagan, who was a steel erector and a "champion safe-breaker". He had two younger sisters, Margaret and Elizabeth. In 1955, he attended Compton Street School in Clerkenwell (now St. Peter & St. Paul RC Primary School). In 1966, he left home at 16 to escape his father, who, Fagan says, was violent, and started working as a painter and decorator. In 1972, he married Christine, with whom he had four children.[3]

Break-ins[edit]

First entry[edit]

According to his own account, the 9 July 1982 incident was Michael Fagan's second attempted intrusion on the palace; the first happening about a month before. [4] Fagan says he shimmied up the drainpipe, startling a housemaid, who called security. When guards reached the scene, Fagan had disappeared, leading them to believe the housemaid was mistaken. Fagan claims he entered the palace through an unlocked window on the roof and spent the next half-hour eating cheddar cheese and crackers and wandering around. He tripped several alarms, but they were faulty. He claims to have viewed royal portraits and rested for a while on the throne. He also speaks of entering the postroom, where Diana, Princess of Wales had hidden presents for her first son, William. Fagan said he drank half a bottle of white wine before becoming tired and leaving.[3]

Second entry[edit]

At the time of the second incident, 9 July 1982, Michael Fagan was 33 years old and an unemployed decorator whose wife had just left him. At around 7:00am on that morning Fagan scaled Buckingham Palace's 14-foot-high (4.3 m) perimeter wall – topped with revolving spikes and barbed wire[2] – and shimmied up a drainpipe before wandering into the Queen's bedroom at about 7:15am.[1]

An alarm sensor had detected his prior movements inside the palace but police thought the alarm was faulty and silenced it.[3] Fagan wandered the palace corridors for several minutes before reaching the section where the royal apartments were located. In an anteroom Fagan broke a glass ashtray, cutting his hand. He was still carrying a fragment of the glass when he entered the Queen's bedroom.[1]

The Queen woke when he disturbed a curtain, and initial reports said Fagan sat on the edge of her bed. But in a 2012 interview, he said she left the room immediately to seek security.[3] She had phoned the palace switchboard twice for police but none had arrived. Fagan then asked for some cigarettes, which were brought by a maid, who had been cleaning a neighbouring room. The duty footman, Paul Whybrew, who had been walking the Queen's dogs, then appeared, followed by two policemen on palace duty who removed Fagan. The incident had happened as the armed police officer outside the royal bedroom came off duty before his replacement arrived.

A subsequent police report was critical of the competence of officers on duty as well as a system of confused and divided command.[1]

Arrest[edit]

Since it was then a civil wrong rather than a criminal offence, Fagan was not charged for trespassing in the Queen's bedroom.[5] He was charged with theft (of the wine), but the charges were dropped when he was committed for psychiatric evaluation. He spent the next six months in a psychiatric hospital before being released on 21 January 1983. It was not until 2007, when Buckingham Palace became a "designated site" for the purposes of section 128 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005, that what he did became criminal.[6] Fagan's mother later said, "He thinks so much of the Queen. I can imagine him just wanting to simply talk and say hello and discuss his problems."[7]

Later life[edit]

In 1984, Fagan attacked a policeman at a café in Fishguard, Wales, and was given a three-month suspended jail sentence. He was found guilty of indecent exposure in 1987 after he was spotted running around wearing no trousers on waste ground in Chingford, London. In 1997, he was imprisoned for four years after he, his wife and their 20-year-old son were charged with conspiring to supply heroin.[8]

Notoriety[edit]

In 1983, Michael Fagan recorded a cover version of the Sex Pistols song "God Save The Queen"[9] with British punk band the Bollock Brothers. He made an appearance in Channel 4's The Antics Roadshow,[10] an hour-long 2011 TV documentary directed by the British street artist Banksy charting the history of people behaving oddly in public. The palace intrusion was adapted in 2012 for an episode of Sky Arts' Playhouse Presents series entitled Walking the Dogs,[11][12] a one-off British comedy drama starring Emma Thompson as the monarch.

References[edit]

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