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Norman Luck

Reporter whose scoop about intruder Michael Fagan breaking into the Queen's bedroom led his bosses to wonder how much he had been drinking at lunchtime

NORMAN Luck, who has died aged 71, was a long-serving Daily Express reporter noted for breaking one of the most remarkable royal stories of the Eighties. One afternoon in 1982, Luck came into his paper's Fleet Street offices to announce that a bloodstained man had broken into Buckingham Palace at night, entered the Queen's bedroom and sat down on her bed, forcing her to engage him in nervous conversation for 10 minutes before help arrived.

Luck's editors were so sceptical of this story that they tried to establish how much he had had to drink at lunchtime. The reporter, meanwhile, stuck by his story, while refusing to reveal his source. His nervous employers eventually believed him, and ran the story -- earning Luck an award for "Scoop of the Year".

Luck wrote how Michael Fagan, an unemployed father of four, had entered the palace grounds by scaling undetected the 14ft perimeter wall that was topped with spikes and barbed wire. He had then climbed a drainpipe and got into the building through an open window of the room housing King George V's £12m stamp collection, which he ignored. Dressed in grubby T-shirt and jeans, Fagan wandered through the corridors admiring the paintings on the walls and peeping into several rooms. In one, he picked up a glass ashtray which broke, cutting his hand.

Dripping blood from the wound, he walked into another room. This turned out to be the Queen's bedroom, where she was sound asleep. Luck reported that, as Fagan sat down on her bed, smearing blood on the sheets, she awoke with a start and picked up her bedside telephone.

The police guards failed to respond, and -- as Luck told it -- the Queen and Fagan spoke quietly for 10 minutes until she was able to summon a footman, ostensibly to fetch Fagan a cigarette. Servants hustled the non-resisting intruder away, and an investigation began into this astonishing security blunder.

The incident occurred as the armed police officer outside the Queen's bedroom came off duty, but before his replacement (who had been out walking the Queen's dogs) arrived to take his place. There was public outrage at the lapse and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher apologised personally to the Queen.

Fagan was never charged, but was detained for psychiatric evaluation. He recently claimed that the Queen had not engaged him in conversation, but had run out of the room to get help. The story of his break-in is currently being filmed for a television drama, Walking the Dogs, with Emma Thompson as the Queen.

Norman Luck was born at West Wickham, Kent, on January 31 1941. After jobs on local papers, in 1965 he joined the Daily Express in Manchester, later moving to the Fleet Street office.

Although never a foreign correspondent, Luck covered stories in Africa, the Middle East and New Zealand. In 1996 he retired from the Express, writing a consumer problem page for a local paper. He also helped to design pages for other local papers.

Norman Luck, who had been suffering from cancer, is survived by his wife, Ann.

© Telegraph

Sunday Independent