Video: Royal wedding snafu

By Michael Okwu Correspondent
NBC News
updated 4/7/2005 7:23:14 PM ET 2005-04-07T23:23:14

Two days before Britain's Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles will entertain 750 VIP guests at their wedding, police at Windsor Castle failed to detain a British newspaper reporter who drove a van carrying a box marked "bomb" into the castle grounds. NBC News correspondent Michael Okwu reports.

It has been reported that a fake bomb was taken into Windsor Castle, what happened?

What happened was that one of the most brazen papers here, the Sun newspaper, one of the most widely read tabloids in all of Great Britain, got a tip that security at Windsor Castle was absolutely lax. So they got one of their local reporters to drive in there with a fake delivery truck and with a bogus delivery claim. He convinced a police officer there on the scene that he was there to make a delivery, even though he did not have an appointment. 

He showed the police officer this fake delivery note. The officer never checked the van, where in the back the reporter claims a brown box was clearly marked “bomb.” And then the police officer essentially waved him in.

He drove right through the so-called 5-million pound ring of security onto the grounds of the 900-year-old castle, where in days the heir to the throne will host 750 VIPs, and then was able to park his van just yards away from the queen’s apartment. And there was an indication there that the queen was in fact inside.

The gatecrasher was even able to tape all of this, including a little sign-off from him on the grounds of Windsor Castle saying that he was able to break through the security there. So it’s a very embarrassing day for the royal family indeed.

Why might Windsor Castle be a target of any activity?

It would be a target clearly because on Saturday this much-ballyhooed wedding is going to take place in Windsor. Specifically there will be two separate ceremonies. One will be a civil marriage, literally around the corner at the local town register. And following that, in the afternoon there will be a blessing and dedication service at St. George’s Chapel, which is right on the grounds of Windsor Castle.

Have palace security officials responded to this incident? 

They haven’t said much, frankly. Most of the talking has been from Scotland Yard who launched an inquiry saying that the breach has launched some serious concerns. They issued a statement essentially saying that they were going to look into this and that the facts had to be established before any action was taken. But from what we can understand from published reports, the royal family is clearly not very happy about this. But they’ve stayed essentially mum.

Is this the first time a security breach has occurred on royal grounds? 

It is not. And frankly it’s one of the reasons why this is really embarrassing. You don’t have to look too far to find a breach. Just over the weekend, there were a couple of Polish tourists who were able to break into private quarters right there in Windsor Castle. In 2003, this so-called terrorist gatecrasher broke into, I should say gate-crashed, Prince William’s 21st birthday dressed, no less, as Osama bin Laden. And then there was an occasion just last year where a guy dressed as Batman scaled the walls of Buckingham Palace. These royal residences have been magnets for the curious and the crazy in the past. And there is no reason to believe they wouldn’t be, especially with such a big event looming on the weekend.

Since this was staged by a tabloid, does it make the incident any less significant?

Well, one could argue, I suppose, that it is less significant inherently, because it wasn’t a bomb after all, as far as we know. So people can rest easy about that. What the tabloid I think wanted to point out was that there should always be top-notch security at Windsor Castle. And the royal family has come out in the past to say they were beefing up security on their grounds in particularly for this upcoming event on Saturday. The fact, however, is that this particular reporter was able to go through this so-called vaunted security quite easily without too much effort and was able to film most if not all of it on camera as proof. So, the question is if you had a bomb would you be able to do that? Well, if he had a bomb in the back of that truck we certainly wouldn’t be reporting a light-hearted story today.

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