Queen escaped Australian train assassination plot: retired cop
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II escaped assassination in Australia nearly 40 years ago when plotters tried to derail her train on a mountain pass, a retired detective has claimed, AFP reported.
Former detective superintendent Cliff McHardy told the Lithgow Mercury a large log was placed on the winding track in front of the train carrying the monarch and her husband Prince Philip to the town of Orange on April 29, 1970.
The royal train hit the log at Bowenfels in the Blue Mountains, 150 kilometers (93 miles) northwest of Sydney, but did not shoot off the tracks and down an embankment as it was going too slowly at the time, reports said.
McHardy, now 81, said he was breaking his silence on the alleged plot, which he said has been kept under wraps for nearly four decades, in a bid to flush out information on the culprits, who were never arrested.
"It was one of the big regrets of my police service," McHardy told the Mercury, his local paper.
"We never came up with any decent suspects because if we interviewed people we seemed to be talking in riddles. We couldn't disclose what our inquiries were about" because of the secrecy, he said.
McHardy could not immediately be reached for comment by AFP.
But the Mercury said the royal train struck the log in a railway cutting after it was rolled down an embankment and then placed across the tracks.
"The train continued on under brakes for about 200 metres (yards) with the log still wedged under the front wheels before finally coming to a halt at the level crossing near Bowenfels station," the paper said.
The locomotive remained on the tracks and escaped serious damage, while the log remained did not splinter in the impact, but suffered deep indentations from the train's wheels, McHardy said.
The sovereign, who had just turned 44, and her party continued on their journey from Sydney to the New South Wales town of Orange, apparently unaware of the incident.
The incident could not have been an accident or simple vandalism, McHardy maintained, as the log was rolled into place after a special locomotive had swept the tracks for security, but before the royal train passed.
Among those targeted in the investigation were suspected sympathisers of the Irish Republican Army, which was waging a violent struggle against British rule in Northern Ireland at the time, McHardy told the paper.
But the heavy veil of secrecy that was drawn across the incident to protect the Australian government from embarassment hindered the investigation, he said.
"Perhaps now that the story has gone public someone might come forward," McHardy said.
Reports in Britain said the Queen and her husband have been unaware of the dramatic incident for the past 39 years.
A spokesman for the Australian Federal Police said the agency was checking its archives for details of the alleged plot, while the New South Wales police had no immediate comment on the claim.