Man found guilty of attempting to steal Magna Carta from Salisbury Cathedral

Joe Gamp
Contributor, Yahoo News UK
Mark Royden tried to steal the Magna Carta (PA)

A man has been found guilty of attempting to steal the Magna Carta from Salisbury Cathedral after claiming he thought it was a fake.

Mark Royden, 47, from Canterbury in Kent, was accused of using a hammer to smash the protective case to steal the 800-year-old document from the Cathedral on 25 October, 2018.

On Thursday, a jury at Salisbury Crown Court found Royden guilty of attempting theft and causing £14,000 worth of damage to the display.

Mark Royden arrives at Salisbury Crown Court charged with attempting to steal the Magna Carta from the city's cathedral (PA)

It was put back on display in February 2019 following the attempted theft.

During his trial, Rob Welling, prosecuting, told how Royden chose a route into the cathedral which avoided CCTV cameras, apart from one close to the Chapter House that holds the historic document.

He told the jury that the “would-be” thief attempted to turn the camera away just moments before smashing the case holding the historic charter of rights.

Hammer holes in the glass case that houses the Magna Carta, inside the Chapter House, at Salisbury Cathedral (PA)

Mr Welling said that Royden smashed the glass holding the Magna Carta but failed to break it and was captured by visitors and staff at the cathedral as he attempted to flee empty-handed.

He added that Royden told police in a “odd prepared statement”, claiming that he attempted to steal the charter as he “doubted its authenticity”.

His comments included: “You can’t talk to me about the holy grail so to speak, if you find a bag on the floor which says cocaine on it, you would have to test that bag forensically, as for your holy grail, you would need a carbon test and a trace element test.”

Read more:
Magna Carta 'theft': Man 'tried to steal priceless document as he ‘thought it was fake'
Cameron: UK must 'safeguard' Magna Carta's legacy
From Magna Carta to Brexit: 800 years of constitutional crises in Britain

The court heard how Royden has 23 previous convictions covering 51 offences, including theft and criminal damage.

Judge Richard Parkes QC told the jury: “There is an irony that the charter of the Magna Carta that this defendant is charged with attempting to steal states that no free man may be imprisoned other than by the lawful judgment of his peers.

“It still holds good and is in the process of the court right now.”

The reinstalled original Magna Carta inside the medieval Chapter House at Salisbury Cathedral (PA)

The cathedral houses one of only four exemplified copies of the historic charter, agreed to by King John in 1215.

Judge Parkes remanded Royden in custody until sentencing on 25 February.

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