UK

Buckingham Palace wall scaled by convicted killer

Denis Hennessy Image copyright Met Police

A man who has admitted scaling Buckingham Palace's wall and trespassing in the grounds is a convicted murderer, a court has heard.

Denis Hennessy, 41, of Wembley, north-west London, was on licence following the murder of a homeless man in 1992.

He wandered the palace gardens for about 10 minutes before his arrest on Wednesday evening. He had been unarmed, Westminster Magistrates' Court heard.

Hennessy pleaded guilty and was jailed for four months on Friday.

He admitted one count of trespass on a protected site and one count of criminal damage.

'Is Ma'am in?'

He had cut his right hand as he climbed over the top of the wall, which is between 8ft to 10ft high, and set the alarm off.

Prosecutor Tom Nicholson told the court that he had repeatedly asked, "Is Ma'am in?" as he was detained.

The Queen was in residence at the time, with the Duke of Edinburgh and the Duke of York.

Hennessy told police he had "walked through the gardens admiring the view".

Sikander Choudry, defending, said the unemployed stonemason had drunk "four or five cans of cider" before the incident.

He went to meet a friend in central London, and on his way to Victoria had another drink in a pub before deciding to climb the palace wall, using a nearby tree.

Mr Choudry said: "Mr Hennessy did not have any malicious intent towards the Royal Family - that's not the reason he went to Buckingham Palace."

Iron bar attack

Recalling Hennessy's previous conviction for murder, Mr Nicholson told the court that Hennessy had been 17 when he was accosted by a homeless man who had asked for money and knocked food out of his hand.

"Hennessy became angry and attacked him with an iron bar, fracturing his skull into small pieces," Mr Nicholson said.

Hennessy, who had been sniffing butane gas before the attack, then jumped on the man's head, killing him.

He was convicted in 1993 at the Old Bailey and released from prison in 2002. The probation service stopped monitoring him in 2013. He also had a conviction for shoplifting in 2016.

Chief magistrate, senior district judge Howard Riddle, jailed Hennessy for four months for trespassing and two months, to run concurrently, for damaging the wires of the alarm system, to the value of £2,000.


Analysis

By Peter Hunt, BBC royal correspondent

"Man breaches palace security" is an all too familiar headline in recent decades.

The Queen, when in London, is protected - initially - by a 10ft-high wall, not a ring of steel. The security is tighter, the closer one gets to the head of state.

That wall has been climbed by Michael Fagan in the 80s, who wanted to have a chat with the woman he called Elizabeth Regina, and by Jason Hatch more than 20 years later, dressed as Batman while protesting about father's rights.

The latest intruder, Denis Hennessy, was apprehended in the gardens and didn't make it to the palace. That fact is regarded as significant by the police and by royal officials who still shiver when they remember how Aaron Barschak, wearing a peach ball gown, gatecrashed Prince William's 21st birthday party at Windsor Castle and kissed the future king on both cheeks.

The sentencing of Hennessey will, officials hope, deter others from trying to access the Queen's backyard.


There have been several security breaches at Buckingham Palace in the past, including the case of Michael Fagan, who got into the Queen's bedroom in 1982 and spent 10 minutes talking to her before she managed to raise the alarm when he asked for a cigarette.

In 2003, Daily Mirror journalist Ryan Parry exposed security flaws by getting a job as a footman at the palace using a false reference.

In 2013, a man scaled a fence and was arrested inside the palace. He was found at about 22:20 BST in a room which had been open to the public in the daytime.

Last year two men got on to the roof of the Queen's Gallery, adjacent to the palace, and unveiled a banner in a protest over fathers' rights.

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