Royals

Previously classified documents confirm a Kiwi assassination attempt on Queen Elizabeth

It has remained secret since 1981, and police have now launched an investigation into the handling of the incident.

By Candice Mehta-Culjak
Queen Elizabeth II

New Zealand's Security Intelligence Service (SIS) has released previously classified documents confirming that a 17-year-old anti-royalist tried to assassinate the Queen during an official visit to Dunedin in 1981.

Christopher Lewis, a member of a right-wing terror group which he setup with two friends, hid in a toilet cubicle on the fifth floor of a building overlooking the royal motorcade on October 14, 1981, when he fired a single shot with a stolen .22 rifle in the direction of the monarch.

Thankfully, no one was injured in the brazen attack.

The documents were released after Stuff reported on the incident in January.

Queen Elizabeth greets the public during her 1981 tour of New Zealand.
Queen Elizabeth greets the public during her 1981 tour of New Zealand.

Lewis was never charged with attempting to kill the Queen but was accused instead of offences including discharging a firearm.

"Lewis did indeed originally intend to assassinate the Queen," the documents say, as reported by Stuff. But he "did not have a suitable vantage point from which to fire, nor a sufficiently high-powered rifle for the range."

Adding to intrigue, members of the public and local and international media were told by authorities "what they took to be a shot" was, in fact, a signboard falling over.

Lewis was never charged with attempting to kill the Queen as she visited Dunedin in 1981.
Lewis was never charged with attempting to kill the Queen as she visited Dunedin in 1981.

There is speculation a "cover up" was carried out by authorities to avoid embarrassment during the royal tour and to ensure future visits from the Head of State would not be impacted.

A memo in 1981 from the SIS hinted that the situation was being dealt with quietly, it read: "Current police investigations into the shots have been conducted discreetly and most media representatives probably have the impression that the noise was caused by a firework of some description."

It added: "There is a worry, however, that in court the press may make the connections between the date of the offence and the Queen's visit."

Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh arrive in Wellington during the tour.
Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh arrive in Wellington during the tour.

Police have since launched an investigation into the handling of the incident.

"Given the passage of time, it is anticipated this examination of the old file and its associated material will take some time," a police spokesman said.

"NZ Police will share the outcome of this examination once it has been completed."

Lewis went on to commit a series of armed robberies and was charged with the brutal murder of a woman, before taking his own life while awaiting trial in prison in 1997. He was 33 years old.