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Man found guilty of trying to steal Magna Carta

Mark Royden Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Mark Royden had doubts the document, one of four remaining copies, was genuine, the trial heard

A man has been found guilty of trying to steal a copy of Magna Carta from Salisbury Cathedral.

Mark Royden, 47, from Kent, used a hammer to try to smash through the protective case around the 805-year-old document but failed to take it.

Jurors at Salisbury Crown Court also found him guilty of criminal damage.

Royden had told police he believed the document, which helped establish legal rights for citizens in this country, was fake.

He was remanded in custody, ahead of sentencing on February 25.

The attempted theft, which caused £14,466 of damage, took place in October 2018 in the cathedral’s medieval Chapter House where the document was on display.

Royden was arrested after being chased and detained by “good-spirited” members of the public as he attempted to leave.

Image copyright PA Media
Image caption The glass cabinet has now been replaced, though the cathedral has also put the smashed one on display

Judge Richard Parkes QC told jurors: “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.”

He added: “We are not concerned with the authenticity of Salisbury Cathedral’s Magna Carta, it’s a state document of huge significance and one of four dating back to 1215 and the meeting of King John and the barons of Runnymede.”

He said Royden was likely to be handed a custodial sentence, adding: “I take the view there was significant planning.”

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Media captionThe moment Mark Royden was arrested was captured on a police bodycam

The trial had heard Royden scoped the cathedral for a route avoiding CCTV cameras and came equipped with a hammer, gloves and safety goggles.

He had 23 previous convictions covering 51 offences, including theft and criminal damage, the court heard.

Royden, who suffered brain damage in a car accident in 1991, is subject to a court of protection order regarding his finances and is aided by a carer.

Source: bbc.co.uk

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