Volunteer who grabbed gunman who fired at Queen recalls being thanked by monarch

·2-min read

A St John Ambulance volunteer who stopped a young man shooting the Queen has told how he was left “dumbstruck” when he was thanked by the monarch and her family after the incident.

In 1981, 17-year-old Marcus Sarjeant fired six blank shots at the Queen while she was riding down The Mall in London during the Trooping the Colour parade.

Retired forklift and delivery driver John Heasman, now 78, of Bermondsey, south-east London, was the first to grab Sarjeant while on voluntary first aid duty, not knowing at the time it was a blank gun.

Royalty – Shots Fired at Queen Elizabeth II – Trooping the Colour, London
Marcus Sarjeant fired blank shots at the Queen in 1981 and was later jailed for treason (PA)

Later, while volunteering at a royal garden party in 1982, Mr Heasman was invited to a surprise meeting with the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, the then Prince and Princess of Wales and the Princess Royal.

He told the PA news agency: “The Queen said to me ‘this is an informal discussion just to say thank-you for what you done for me on the day of last year’s Trooping’.

“I was dumbstruck, I looked at her and said ‘thank-you, Your Majesty, Ma’am’, and she was just talking away.

“She invited me to sit down and she sat opposite and offered me a cup of tea or a biscuit or cake, but I told her ‘no thank-you, we just had one of your lovely sandwiches before we came up’.

“We were chatting for 15 minutes, she asked about the incident and how I noticed the young man with the gun.

“She told me ‘you know you’ve done a brave thing’, I said ‘not really Ma’am I just turned around and held on to the gun in a certain position’, but obviously at the time no-one knew it was a blank gun.”

John Heasman in uniform
John Heasman has volunteered with St John Ambulance since 1959 (St John Ambulance/PA)

He added: “Diana just said ‘hello’ I think. The Duke of Edinburgh shook my hand and said ‘well done young man, thank-you for what you’ve done,’ type of thing. Charles was in his 30s, like me.

“I think they were just there together relaxing and having tea and wanted to thank me.”

Mr Heasman, who has volunteered for St John Ambulance since 1959, also works at Millwall Football Club.

He said he has put his name down to provide support at ceremonial events, including the Queen’s state funeral, and her lying in state.

Sarjeant was handed a prison sentence under the Treason Act and jailed for five years.

Mr Heasman added: “I was very upset to hear the Queen had died, but I’m so glad I have this memory, being thanked by her is something I’ll never forget.”