Bungling Magna Carta thief jailed


A man whose attempt to steal a Magna Carta failed when he could not break through the security glass protecting it has today been convicted.

Mark Royden, 46, immediately stood out among visitors to Salisbury Cathedral when he arrived in October 2018 wearing security glasses and gloves, with a hammer concealed in his trousers.

The damaged case and Reydon's hammer
The damaged case and Reydon's hammer
The would-be-thief had carefully planned his route to avoid detection and was spotted in an area of the cathedral closed off to the public.

He later attempted to snatch the historic document - one of only four surviving original copies - in view of stunned onlookers by smashing the cabinet encasing it.

His hammer blows failed to break through the safety glass, although he did succeed in causing £14,000 worth of damage.

When Royden tried to flee, he was blocked at the door by an American tourist and then ran to a different exit where he was restrained until police arrived. In interview, he appeared to question the authenticity of the document.

He was found guilty of one count of attempted theft and one count of criminal damage at Salisbury Crown Court.

Rob Welling of the CPS said: “The historical importance of Magna Carta in establishing the right to justice cannot be overstated - which is somewhat ironic given Mark Royden’s repeated denials of his crime in the face of overwhelming evidence.

“Had he succeeded in taking it, Royden would have deprived the nation of what’s said to be the most beautiful surviving copy from 1215.

“Fortunately for the rest of us, he spectacularly botched this theft - though not before causing £14,000 worth of damage.”

Despite numerous witnesses spotting Royden before and after the attempted theft, he continued to insist he was simply in the wrong place and the wrong time.

The CPS overcame this defence by highlighting the overwhelming evidence that left the jury in no doubt as to Royden’s guilt.

This included CCTV footage showing him changing the angle of the camera lens closest to the Magna Carta display case to prevent it capturing the theft - demonstrating his clear understanding of where the cathedral’s cameras were located.

Royden’s discarded hammer had shards of security glass on them. Asked by police about the hammer, Royden claimed the tool might contain some of his DNA because it had brushed up against him.

Mr Welling added: “Royden’s attempts to deny his involvement were frankly ludicrous and I am pleased we have been able to persuade a jury of his clear guilt.

“Thanks to the vigilance of witnesses and police on the day, one of the last original Magna Cartas remains on safely on display for the enjoyment of the public.”

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Little Ireland | Cleator Moor | Cumbria: Bungling Magna Carta thief jailed
Bungling Magna Carta thief jailed
Little Ireland | Cleator Moor | Cumbria
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