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The Queen and Prince Philip were the targets of an assassination plot during a visit to Australia almost 40 years ago, a retired NSW detective claims.
Former Detective Superintendent Cliff McHardy said the unsophisticated plan consisted of placing a large wooden log across railway tracks near Lithgow, in the Blue Mountains, in a bid to derail the royal train.
Mr McHardy, 81, said a catastrophe was only narrowly averted, with the train striking the log but remaining on the tracks.
Details of the alleged conspiracy were supposedly kept under wraps to spare the Australian government any embarrassment, he said.
News of the plot has finally emerged because Mr McHardy, who was the investigating officer at the time, wants to crack the unsolved mystery, saying: "It was one of the big regrets of my police service".
Mr McHardy told Macquarie Radio he had no idea who was behind the plot and only learned of it the morning after it occurred, when he was asked to retrieve the log.
On April 29, 1970, the train entered a winding cutting near Lithgow then struck a large log which had been wedged across the rails.
The log became stuck under the front wheels and the train slid for almost 200 metres before coming to a halt at a level crossing, still on the tracks and largely unscathed.
Police suspected it was an act of sabotage designed to kill or injure the Queen, who had just celebrated her 44th birthday, and her husband.
If the train had derailed it would have crashed into an embankment, said Mr McHardy, who was in charge of the Lithgow police force for 11 years.
He said a security 'sweeper' train checking the line an hour before the Queen's arrival had found nothing, which led him to deduce that the culprits must have had knowledge of the official train's schedule.
Marks at the scene suggested the log had been rolled onto the tracks and manoeuvred into position.
Australian IRA sympathisers were among those suspected of being behind the plot.
Mr McHardy said details of the incident were covered up by authorities who put a gag on release of any information to the media.
But the secrecy also hampered the police investigation.
"We never came up with any decent suspects because if we interviewed people we seemed to be talking in riddles," Mr McHardy said.
Originally posted by Kryties
My initial thoughts, before I read that bit, was that it is possible the log could have fallen there 'naturally' considering the dense bushland surrounding the rail tracks in that area.
Who could have wanted them dead? I know the Blue Mountains people are a peaceful people, so the thought that it may be someone who didn't live in the area strikes a bell with me.
Mr McHardy told a newspaper that vandals were not behind the incident, saying: "The log had been moved on to the line in darkness, by one or two people who had prior knowledge of the area."