The M+G+R Foundation
A Guest News Report
Reporter Gets Past U.K. Palace Security
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 newspaper.
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 "thorough review."
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 fake reference.
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.