true crime

The violent attempt by a lone gunman to kidnap 24-year-old Princess Anne.


Princess Anne’s floor-length gown was ripped, split the entire way down her back.

A 26-year-old man, with red hair and a short beard, was gripping her forearm tightly and demanding she, “Come out… You’ve got to come.”

His name was Ian Ball, and for three years he had been planning the kidnapping of 24-year-old Princess Anne.

That night, on March 20th, 1974, Princess Anne, Queen Elizabeth’s only daughter, had been at a film charity event with her husband of four months, Captain Mark Phillips. At around 8pm, the royal couple were travelling home in a maroon Rolls Royce limousine, accompanied by Princess Anne’s lady-in-waiting, and her bodyguard, Inspector James Wallace Beaton.

We discuss Meghan Markle’s kidnapping training on this week’s episode of Mamamia Out Loud. Post continues below. 

Their chauffeur was driving them to Buckingham Palace, but as they began on Pall Mall – only 200 metres from the palace – a white Ford Escort erratically overtook them. Suddenly, the small car forced them to a halt.

Seconds later, Ball, a working class dissenter, jumped from the car, waving two handguns. At first, Inspector Beaton thought the young man was likely a raging driver, and stepped out of the front seat to settle him.

From approximately six feet away, Ball shot Inspector Beaton in the right shoulder.

The smashed window on Princess Anne's limousine, with the white Ford Escort in front. Image Getty.

The man, who was later found to be living with untreated mental illness, headed for the backseat of the limousine, where the prince and princess were desperately holding the door shut. It was, however, no use.

Beaton, who was injured but not incapacitated, shielded the couple from the gunman, who at this point was shooting at the vehicle. The officer was armed with an automatic weapon and shot back, but his aim was impaired by his wounded shoulder. When he attempted to take a second shot, his gun jammed.

Ball shot the inspector in the hand, and then in the abdomen.

Alexander Callendar, the chauffeur, stepped out of the limousine in an attempt to protect his passengers, and was shot in the chest by Ball.


When Ball reached the backseat, he shook the door violently, staring through the window at the princess who sat on the other side. At this point, the door swung open.

Princess Anne in 1974. Image Getty.

Captain Phillip was holding Princess Anne around her waist, refusing to let Ball pull her from the car.

Princess Anne later described the exchange she had with Ball as "a very irritating conversation," where she protested that she would not be leaving the car.


As Ball continued to demand she come with him, Princess Anne reportedly scoffed, "Not bloody likely!"

With two men already critically injured, Police Constable Michael Hills heard the commotion, assuming there had been a car accident. When he arrived, he approached Ball, and was shot immediately in the stomach - an act witnessed by passerby Ronald Russell.

A former boxer, Russell decided to intervene, along with John Brian McConnell, a Daily Mail journalist, who arrived on the scene.

"Don't be silly, old boy. Put the gun down," McConnell said to the young man - but within seconds, he too was shot.

Russell came up behind Ball, recognising the royal insignia and knowing the prince and princess were likely in danger. He punched Ball in the back of the head, distracting him as Princess Anne exited the backseat where she had been trapped.

Detective Constable Peter Edmonds then arrived, having been radioed by Hills. Ball was attempting to escape, and Edmonds pursued him, throwing his jacket over the man's head. Once Ball was seized, Edmond arrested him.

Princess Anne with injured Inspector Beaton in hospital. Image Getty.

In the days following the attack, it was found the lone shooter had only weeks prior rented a property a few kilometres from where Princess Anne and Captain Phillips lived.

Police found hidden in the white Ford Escort, which Ball had rented under a false name, two pairs of handcuffs, a long and detailed ransom letter addressed to the Queen, demanding £2 million in the form of £5 notes, and tranquilisers.

When Ball appeared in court a few months later, he said, "I would like to say that I did it because I wished to draw attention to the lack of facilities for treating mental illness under the National Health Service." He pleaded guilty to attempted murder and attempted kidnapping charges, and was issued a life sentence in a mental health facility.

Following the failed kidnap attempt of Princess Anne, royal security was forever changed. Today, the royal family is provided with 24-hour security, by a team of up to 185 SAS-trained officers.