Security lapses blamed for attack on royals' car
EMBARRASSING details emerged yesterday about the lapse in security that exposed Prince Charles and his wife Camilla to a violent mob intent on causing them harm.
Eyewitnesses described how the couple's police bodyguards lost control of an increasingly threatening situation as rioters surrounded the royal convoy. At one point, the duchess was hit with a stick after a car window malfunctioned and wound down, it was claimed.
The officers were so badly outnumbered that when they climbed out of a second vehicle to push protesters away, they were forced to retreat after they were pelted with missiles.
One witness claimed that a police back-up car travelling behind the royal couple's Rolls Royce began ramming it in an attempt to make the driver force his way through the crowd.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Paul Stephenson hinted that the armed officers came close to drawing their guns as they rapidly ran out of options.
He apologised personally to the Prince of Wales yesterday as his officers began piecing together details of the ill-fated journey from Clarence House to the London Palladium to establish how it went so badly wrong.
Ironically, the prince had joked about the threat of an attack as he left an awards ceremony to travel to the theatre. "Hopefully we'll be able to brave our way through," he said.
The royalty protection squad, however, appeared not to have fully appreciated the risks posed by the student demonstration.
Instead of taking a 'discreet' route through the back streets, the prince's bodyguards decided to follow main roads, including Piccadilly and Regent Street, taking them into the path of a breakaway group of protesters.
Although the commissioner insisted the route had been checked for potential hazards, the convoy's motorcycle outriders were using a different radio channel to the officers policing the demonstration. This left them in the dark as to the protesters' movements.
As the royals' car turned into Regent Street, the prince and duchess smiled and waved to the crowd that gathered around the vehicle. The prince was seen holding his hands out as if to say 'I'm innocent'. However, about a dozen protesters surrounded the Rolls Royce and began battering it with sticks and stones, shouting "your government, your head". (© Daily Telegraph, London)