Monarchist Sympathies Overrode Criminal Justice
An attempt to shoot Elizabeth Windsor, Britain’s feudal head of state, was hushed up by the New Zealand police, according to a report in that country’s Stuff publication.
Queen Windsor with NZ Prime Minister Robert Muldoon
Christopher Lewis, aged 17, fired a shot from a .22 rifle towards Windsor who was half a kilometre away while Windsor was visiting Dunedin in 1981 as a part of a state visit to the former British colony.
At the time the police claimed that the sound of the shot was in fact from a street sign falling over or a fire cracker.
Lewis confessed to being the shooter when he was later arrested on other charges.
However, the police seem to have allowed monarchist sympathies rather than the normal criminal justice principles guide their handling of the case.
Lewis was at first charged with treason. This was apparently because Windsor, although not a New Zealander, is the titular head of state of New Zealand. At the time the death penalty was a penalty for treason.
However, Lewis was in the end charged only with possessing a firearm and discharging it in a public place.
This change of heart did not come, however, from a realisation that no loyalty was owed to foreign monarch nor that a more serious sentence was not warranted when one was the victim. It was, according to Stuff, because the New Zealand government led by Robert Muldoon feared that Windsor would not visit again if she believed that she had been shot at.
According to Lewis he was, for this reason, threatened with serious consequences if he talked about his assassination attempt. He said he was told “That if I was ever to mention the events surrounding my interviews or the organisation, or that I was in the building, or that I was shooting from it – that they would make sure I ‘suffered a fate worse than death’.”
Lewis was gaoled for only three years. He spent part of this time in a psychiatric facility. But when Windsor visited the country again in 1995 the government paid for a holiday trip to the Great Barrier Reef to keep him out of the way.
Lewis had a difficult childhood and had been involved in petty crime from an early age. He left school at age 15 having been expelled more than once, the first time from kindergarten.
Following the Windsor shooting he served time for robberies and burglaries. In 1997 he was charged with the murder of Tania Furlan. He killed himself while on remand in prison.
For the New Zealand authorities, however, the most important thing was to keep the Windsors visiting.