Man on trial accused of attempting to steal Magna Carta from Salisbury Cathedral

A 47-year-old man has gone on trial accused of attempting to steal one of the oldest surviving versions of the Magna Carta from Salisbury Cathedral after "doubting its authenticity".

Mark Royden, from Canterbury, Kent, is accused of using a hammer to smash the protective case in his bid to steal the 800-year-old document from Salisbury Cathedral on October 25 2018.

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Rob Welling, prosecuting, told Salisbury Crown Court that it was the actions of "good-spirited" members of the public that prevented his escape.

He said: "He set out on that day to steal the Magna Carta from Salisbury Cathedral and his attempt failed and it failed for two reasons.

"The first is the safety glass protecting such an important historic document was just too tough for the tool he brought.

"Secondly, he did not bank on there being so many good-spirited visitors andmembers of staff who would be willing to intervene and he was caught anddetained despite trying to get away."

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Mr Welling said that members of the public, including American visitors and a member of staff, attempted to contain Royden within a set of glass doors but he threatened them with a hammer.

Leigh Chalmers, cathedral outreach worker, told the court how she and others struggled with Royden and the glass door before pursuing 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."

Ms Chalmers said Royden ran off through a goods yard and was chased and caught by stonemasons working at the cathedral.

Mr Welling said that Royden, who was described as smelling of alcohol, 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".

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

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Mr Welling said that Royden made an "odd prepared statement" to police 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 that 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 and had worn a hooded top and baseball cap.

Mr Welling added that Royden was recorded adjusting a CCTV camera in bid to prevent the incident from being captured.

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

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