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The Lithgow Plot: How an Australian gang tried to assassinate the Queen 50 years ago

The assassins reportedly placed a sizable log across the rail tracks where the royal couple's train was scheduled to cross in an attempt to derail it
Queen Elizabeth II was the target of an assassination attempt 50 years ago, called the 'Lithgow plot' (Photo: Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images, BritishRoyalFilms/YouTube)
Queen Elizabeth II was the target of an assassination attempt 50 years ago, called the 'Lithgow plot' (Photo: Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images, BritishRoyalFilms/YouTube)

LITHGOW, NEW SOUTH WALES: Queen Elizabeth II was nearly killed in an assassination plot 5 decades ago. Australians recalled the "greatest unsolved mystery" of her reign — an attempted assassination that occurred more than 50 years ago just outside of Sydney. The Queen was allegedly the target of the Lithgow Plot on April 29, 1970, in Lithgow, New South Wales, while she was on a royal tour of Australia. 

During their 1970 tour of Australia, the Royal couple were traveling from Sydney to Orange in the central west of New South Wales when they fell victim to the dastardly plan to eliminate the royal couple. The Commissioner's Train carrying them across the Blue Mountains came to a stop about halfway through the trip. The slow-moving train saved their lives, but they were unaware of their close call at the time. 


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In an effort to derail the train, the would-be assassins had reportedly placed a sizable log across the tracks where the royal couple was scheduled to cross, according to former Detective Superintendent Cliff McHardy. Fortunately, the train's driver applied the brakes quickly, causing it to slide nearly 700 feet before coming to a stop at a level crossing. The train sustained no significant damage and continued along its course.

'Greatest unsolved mystery'

The train would have run off the tracks and into an embankment if it was running at its normal speed. "According to my investigations, the log was purposefully placed on the tracks," Mr. McHardy informed Daily Mail in 2009. He believes the plan was put into action with the help of insiders and possibly directed by supporters of the Australian Irish Republican Army due to the timing of the scheme. In order to spare the Australian Government much embarrassment, he continued, the entire assassination attempt was kept a secret for almost 40 years, both from the general public and from the royal family. The investigating officer in the case, Mr. McHardy, asserted that he made the choice to come forward in order to solve the "greatest unsolved mystery of my career."

The former detective claimed that the attempted assassination cover-up meant that police would never be able to find the criminals, even though he understood why the attempt had to be kept a secret. He said, "We never came up with any decent suspects because if we interviewed people we seemed to be talking in riddles,' he said. 'We couldn't disclose what our inquiries were about."

'Queen survived 3 assassination attempts'

Apart from the Lithgow plot, the queen reportedly experienced an assassination attempt when she was in New Zealand in 1981 while visiting a museum in the city of Dunedin. Marcus Sarjeant shot six blanks as the queen rode by during Trooping the Colour in London after being motivated by John Lennon's murder in 1980. Her horse, Burmese, reportedly became startled, but the monarch was able to calm him down and continue riding, reported by SCMP

In another instance, the queen was getting out of a car when Christopher John Lewis, 17, who was waiting in a nearby building, opened fire through a window. Despite witnesses claiming to have heard a "loud crack," he missed, as reported by a number of media outlets. Lewis was detained eight days later and served three years, some of which were spent in a mental health facility.