A Guest News Report
Reporter Gets Past U.K. Palace
Wed Nov 19, 2003
LONDON - AP - The new footman at Buckingham Palace boasted he rode
on royal carriages, served tea to the queen and had free rein in the
royal residence. It turns out he was a tabloid reporter who obtained
his royal job using a false reference.
With President Bush (news - web sites) staying at the palace, the
story was a huge embarrassment to the British government and its
elaborate efforts to guarantee their guest's security.
Palace, police and government officials scrambled Wednesday to
investigate how the Daily Mirror reporter was hired and assigned duties
that reportedly included delivering chocolates to the guest quarters of
Bush and his wife Laura.
Buckingham Palace said it was considering legal action against the
The Daily Mirror splashed the story across 15 pages Wednesday, the
first full day of Bush's state visit to Britain. The newspaper said the
infiltration by reporter Ryan Parry exposed "shocking incompetence at
the heart of the biggest security operation ever in Britain."
Bush was informed of the breach Wednesday morning.
"We have every confidence in the British security," White House
spokeswoman Claire Buchan said.
A Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said the palace was conducting a
"full investigation" and had "put in place additional measures to its
current recruitment procedures" as a result of the apparent breach.
Home Secretary David Blunkett, who is in charge of policing and
security, went to the House of Commons to make an emergency statement
about the lapse. He said the Security Commission, an independent body
responsible for overseeing breaches of security, would conduct a
In The Mirror's spread - under headlines including "I could have
poisoned the queen" - Parry said he applied for a job advertised on the
palace Web site using his own name and was hired despite supplying a
He also did not mention his job as a journalist. A Google search for
Ryan Parry turns up references to a journalist who last summer gained a
job as a security guard to tennis stars at Wimbledon (news - web sites)
- again, using false references.
Blunkett said officials "are satisfied that both the security and
the criminal records checks were done robustly and correctly and that
there was no risk from this individual."
But he conceded the failure to fully check Parry's background "is a
breach and ... it needs to be closed."
Andy Trotter, deputy assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan
Police, said the force was "extremely concerned" and was working to
ensure there would be no repetition.
The Mirror illustrated its story with photos of Parry in the palace
and snapshots allegedly taken by him of the sumptuous Belgian Suite,
where the president and his wife are believed to be staying, the
queen's breakfast table - complete with cornflakes and porridge laid
out in Tupperware containers - and bedrooms said to belong to Prince
Andrew and Prince Edward.
There was also a shot of Parry's small, Spartan palace bedroom, and
details of a footman's salary - 11,881 pounds ($20,172) a year, reduced
to 9,338 pounds ($15,854) after living expenses. "I soon realized that
life as a footman was not my cup of tea," Parry wrote.
He shared some insider knowledge gleaned during two months on the
job: the queen prefers toast with light marmalade for breakfast, while
Princess Anne's fruit bowl "must always contain a very black banana and
ripe kiwi fruit."
Parry said he was given a security pass that allowed him access to
all areas of the palace. He was on duty when Bush and his wife Laura
arrived Tuesday evening and knew the president's detailed itinerary.
Earlier Tuesday, he wrote, he delivered chocolates, mints, cookies and
fruit to every room on the floor occupied by Bush's party.
"Had I been a terrorist intent on assassinating the Queen or
American President George Bush, I could have done so with absolute
ease," he wrote.
Security around the royal family was reviewed after a comedian
dressed as Osama bin Laden (news - web sites) crashed Prince William's
21st birthday party at Windsor Castle last June.
Security at Buckingham Palace was tightened in 1982 after a mentally
disturbed man climbed a drainpipe and spent 10 minutes sitting on the
queen's bed, holding a broken ashtray and talking with the monarch
before guards arrived.
The worst breach of royal security occurred in 1974, when Ian Ball
tried to abduct Princess Anne as she and her first husband, Mark
Phillips, were being driven to the palace. Ball forced their limousine
to stop and brandished a pistol. Anne and Phillips were not harmed, but
her bodyguard was wounded. Ball was sent to a mental hospital.
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