Nov 20 2003 Daily Mirror

OUR MAN IN THE CASTLE: STILL WIDE OPEN
Unguarded doors, no sentries, unchecked baggage and our bus waved through without checks

By Ryan Parry


THE true extent of the security breach that yesterday rocked the Royal Family and sent shockwaves around the world can be revealed today.

Not only did I have the run of Buckingham Palace for two months working undercover as a royal footman, but I was also able to penetrate even the fortress walls of Windsor Castle without showing a security pass.

If there is any place in Britain where the Queen of England should feel protected, it is Windsor - home to the Royal Family since William the Conqueror built its impressive castle walls almost 1,000 years ago.

Yet here, at the monarch's weekend retreat, I found a deeper security scandal still - empty police sentry points, unguarded doors, unchecked baggage, and haphazard checks on security passes.

Considering the supposed ring of steel in place after "comedy terrorist" Aaron Barschak intruded on Prince William's 21st birthday party at Windsor last June, this breach in royal protection is even more shocking.

Then, Home Secretary David Blunkett promised a range of tight new security measures that would make the castle truly impenetrable to unwanted visitors.

But last month - only four months later - I found nothing could be further from the truth as I began duty attending to the Queen as a footman.

The first security blunder happened only minutes after I arrived at Windsor Castle, where I was posted to attend the Queen during a private weekend.

To my horror, police waved the Palace minibus through the main gate without checking whether the five occupants were bona-fide members of staff.

THE shock must have registered on my face. A fellow footman told me: "It seems the police are back to their old selves. After that Barschak thing they checked every single person for a security pass for about a month.

"Now they just don't bother, especially if they think you're staff."

The following day, during a morning walk in the castle grounds with the Queen's corgis - one of my many duties as her footman - two other staff members openly expressed concerns that a policeman was missing from his post.

The Queen was out on an official engagement, attending a special ceremony for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission at the Air Forces Memorial in Runnymede.

I know because earlier that morning I had helped open the car doors for Her Majesty and some of her entourage as they left the castle's quadrangle.

Shocked at seeing the empty police box, a fellow footman told me: "The Queen pops out for an hour and the police go for a cup of tea.

"Anyone could sneak into the castle without being seen and wait for her to get back. No wonder Barschak got in so easily.

"It happens all the time, yet they still claim things have tightened up."

IT was one of a catalogue of security lapses that I witnessed during my four-day stay from October 16.

Yet Commander Frank Armstrong had made numerous recommendations on how to tighten security after Barschak got into the castle. He said:

-THERE should be more police.
-TROOPS should be used to boost the numbers of police.
-ALARMS should always be activated.
-PERIMETER wall security should be checked.
-THERE should be more security posts.
-ALL security checks should be reviewed and upgraded.
-THE Barschak incident should be a catalyst to bring in sweeping changes in security at all the palaces.

Yet, from what I heard and could see, none of these recommendations had been implemented.

I spent nearly four days at the castle, and once within the perimeter was free to wander where I pleased - unmonitored by CCTV and undetected by sensors.

No bag searches were carried out at the security lodge to the rear of the castle, close to where the public wandered.

A number of entrances to the rear of Windsor Castle which are used mainly by the Queen and her staff were regularly left open throughout the day.

On the Saturday I was able to open a door looking out over the quadrangle and have my picture taken by a photographer behind a public access barrier. I was yards from the Queen's entrance and in breach of royal protocol by stepping out on to the quad which the Queen likes to look over from the Oak Room.

Photographs I took of the swimming pool complex at Windsor and of the Queen's dinner table show how incredibly close I was able to get.

In fact, despite my false credentials, Windsor Castle provided me with the closest access to the Queen in my eight weeks of employment. The castle is her sanctuary, the place to which she escapes at weekends, often without immediate members of her own family.

She has come to regard Windsor as a place where she can relax. Yet for up to 14 hours a day I was able to share the Queen's private world. I would regularly see the monarch as she went about her daily routine.

I carried food to her apartments, prepared her gin and Dubonnet - her favourite tipple - and delivered newspapers and private mail to her room.

I even escorted the Queen out of Windsor when she left for an official engagement under police escort and later led one of her close friends to her private rooms for an evening drink.

BUT the frightening lapses of security I began to discover as I became immersed in royal life were no laughing matter.

I discovered that only at night, when the Queen and her staff had gone to bed, did an armed officer stand guard near to her private rooms.

For the rest of the day the Queen was totally unprotected within the castle.

If anyone had breached the outer perimeter they could easily have wandered into her sitting room where she was relaxing watching TV.

Staff sit in the Page's Vestibule waiting for Her Majesty to buzz if she needs anything but, as I soon learned, there were a number of routes to enter her apartments without being seen.

One morning a police officer was finishing a night shift when I went to lay the Queen's breakfast.

Holding a weighty novel after a long night guarding the Queen, he discussed the aftermath of the Barschak security scandal in detail.

"It wasn't the police's fault - staff at the castle shouldn't have let so many catering trucks into the complex at once," he said.

"There was so much movement, sensors were triggering everywhere so when Barschak managed to get in it went undetected. Security has tightened up a lot since then, we have to be on the top of our game."

My duty of walking the corgis every morning gave me unusual glimpses of the royals. One morning, as I strolled towards the royal golf course, I spotted Prince Philip ahead of us, trying not to cross our path.

The sight of a familiar face caused the corgis to race towards him, barking and wagging their tails. Linnet, a dorgi and the slimmer of the Queen's nine dogs reached him first, closely followed by Brandy, Ferros, Emma and Monty.

JUST as the dogs were right at his heels, the Prince sprinted towards them, playfully trying to scare them off. It worked and they dispersed before Lee, the Queen's footman, called them back.

Linnet has recently had a litter of eight puppies and I was told the Queen would take two of them, giving her 11 dogs.

Amazingly I was also put in charge of delivering the Queen and the Prince Philip's mail.

The Windsor post room rang through to the Page's Vestibule to say they had two envelopes for the royals.

I was dispatched to pick them up and even had time to take the packages up to my room in one of the towers at Windsor to take photographs of them.

If I were a terrorist I could easily have tampered with the envelopes.

Royal aides apparent lack of concern over the Queen's security even extends to the bouquets she receives.

Astonishingly, they are handed to the Queen without being passed through security checks.

Four arrived one morning, all for the Queen. "God save the Queen and long live the British monarchy," read the card nestled inside an impressive bouquet of white and blue flowers.

All were from devoted members of the public anxious to tell Her Majesty she was doing a fine job.

If only the same could be said for the men and women charged with protecting her.



BLAIR HAS HAD HEART TROUBLE IN THE PAST

By RYAN PARRY

I REALISED how far I had gone in breaching royal security when I was told about the Queen's personal thoughts on Tony Blair's heart scare.

Attending to the Queen on Sunday, October 19, news filtered through that Blair had been rushed into hospital with an irregular heartbeat.

The Queen was busy taking call after call in the room next door, which led to us serving up dinner for her 15 minutes later than planned.

As her page, Steve Niger, poured coffee, the monarch expressed her concern about Blair's condition.

Moments later he popped into the page's vestibule in the next room and said: "She's very concerned about Blair.

"She told me: 'I do hope it's not too serious. He told me he's had similar complications in the past'."

No10 issued a denial when former US President Bill Clinton said the same thing, but, from what I had heard, the Queen had been certain on that point.

Security at Windsor Castle, where the Queen relaxes most weekends, is even more lax than at Buckingham Palace.

At Windsor, I worked unbelievably close to the monarch but, unlike the palace, there wasn't even the cursory police guard outside her room.

During my four-day stay at Windsor I carried food to her apartments, poured her gin and Dubonnet - her favourite tipple - and delivered newspapers and private mail to her room.

Just as at Buckingham Palace, I would have been perfectly able to poison her drink. By the time anyone found out it would be too late. At Windsor I was just one room away from the monarch and could have walked straight through to her dining room unchallenged.

Just a handful of staff were on duty that long weekend from the evening of Thursday, October 16 until the following Monday morning.

The Queen was alone for most of the weekend, with Prince Philip only returning to the UK from Barbados on the Monday morning.

So, alone, I had an amazing insight into her private life. Each night, I would lay her table for dinner at around 8pm in front of a large TV, carefully positioning the remote control on the left hand side of the place setting. I had been trained on how to perform this task by the Queen's footman. During these dinners, she

settled down to watch her favourite TV programmes
The Bill, EastEnders and, astonishingly, Kirsty's Home Videos, a show which features a fair share of bare bottoms.

On one occasion, the page returned to the vestibule and said, with a laugh: "She was watching The Bill. I was pouring the coffee and she said 'I don't like the Bill, but I just can't help watching it'."

The Queen's taste in TV programmes astonished me, and was reassuringly down to earth. Friday night's dinner was served late because the Queen insisted on catching the end of EastEnders.

On Saturdays, she likes to watch videoed re-runs of the racing followed by Kirsty's Home Videos.

ON that particular weekend, she had been watching a BBC documentary charting the history of Concorde and was in a reflective mood.

She told the page: "I once travelled from Barbados by Concorde because I had to get back for the State Opening of Parliament. We arrived back at five in the morning and I was very tired."

They were innocent moments that captured the spirit of the Queen.

That afternoon I had discovered yet another route that led directly to the sovereign's entrance - a door leading straight into the Queen's private rooms.

I could easily have gone up the stairs undetected and out of view of the staff in the vestibule.

The Queen was busy having afternoon tea in the Oak Room and would have been oblivious to an intruder sneaking around behind her. Windsor is filled with complex corridors and towers. Since the fire ripped the heart out of the castle 11 years ago today it has been transformed back to its former glory, but at a cost.

Along some staff corridors thick fire doors block your way and fire extinguishers jut from every corner.

On my first day, Steve Niger gave me an intimate tour of some of the more stunning rooms within the Queen's private apartments.

I was shown the Oak Room, a relaxing space which overlooks the quadrangle at the centre of the castle. A log fire is lit and checked every day by the castle fendersmith, a man whose main duty is to light the royal fire.

The Queen takes tea here in the afternoon and likes to look across the quadrangle at the tourists.

I was also shown the Queen's sitting room, to the back of the castle which catches the sun throughout the morning and where Her Majesty reads books or watches TV.

I was then shown the Duke of Edinburgh's study and the Wedgewood Room.

Finally, we entered the small dining room yards from the page's vestibule where I was to spend most of my time.

The room is used for breakfast, lunch and dinner, where the Queen eats by herself while watching TV.

For lunch, the staff headed down to the basement to an arched room.

As I ate my lunch, it suddenly dawned on me the company I was keeping.

The Queen's dresser, footman, chauffeur, page and personal protection officer were all with me around the same table, the very core of the Queen's personal staff.

It had been so easy to work alongside these people with a bogus reference.

TUCKING into a Sunday roast we chatted about the Queen's day, what she was up to, what she was wearing, when the Duke was due to arrive.

The chauffeur said: "The Queen was in fine spirits when I drove her to church."

Every afternoon, the Queen had tea at around 4.30pm, when a table was set up with biscuits, cake and scones.

As I entered the kitchen the warm scones looked so tempting I felt like taking a bite. The kitchens have been totally refurbished since the fire at Windsor

Castle but in a traditional style, with wooden units and hooks from the ceiling for saucepans.

Back in the page's vestibule I learned that the scones would not be for the Queen at all.

Her footman told me: "The Queen rarely eats her scones. They mainly get thrown to the dogs under the table. Even the dogs know this. They crowd round her table like vultures. Sometimes they get better food than us."

Bizarrely, while I was at Windsor, the Daily Mirror began serialising former butler Paul Burrell's sensational book.

Splashed across the front page was Princess Diana's letter detailing her fears about a plot to have her killed in a car accident.

I had already noticed that the Queen took most newspapers at her breakfast table, with the understandable absence of The Sun.

But on this particular morning, the revelations led to panic among Windsor staff about whether the Mirror should be included in the Queen's usual pile of daily newspapers.

The page told me: "If they see this they'll go mad and it will start the day off really badly."

But he then changed his mind, believing the royals would only see it on

TV or hear it on the radio and then he would be in trouble.

I hope the Queen is not prevented from reading the Mirror today.

She needs to know how those around her are failing to protect her and her family.



WINDSOR SECURITY WORSE THAN BUCK HOUSE

By Jane Kerr

MIRROR reporter Ryan Parry tells today how he found security at Windsor Castle even more scandalous than at Buckingham Palace.

Despite pledges to boost protection after the Aaron Barschak farce, Parry was able to roam freely around the Queen's country home while working as a footman. He served the monarch drinks, walked her corgis and took food to her private apartments. He was also able to photograph her dining table and the swimming pool which is a favourite place for Princes William and Harry to relax.

Parry was in regular contact with the Queen and Prince Philip during the four days he worked there in October.

Had he been a terrorist, it would have ideal for carrying out an assasination. Yesterday, the Mirror shocked the world by revealing Parry, 26, had been employed as a footman at Buckingham Palace for two months as royal staff prepared for the visit of George Bush.

He took pictures of the room where the US president and his wife Laura slept at the Palace and watched the couple being met by the Queen.

But it was at Windsor where he got closest to the monarch and her husband to expose even worse security lapses. Parry, who got the job with bogus references, met the Queen and the Duke while out walking their corgis.

On his first day a van he was in was ushered in unchecked. One worker said: "The police are back to their old selves."

It was clearly a reference to how security was "tightened" after "comedy terrorist" Aaron Barschak gatecrashed Prince William's 21st birthday at the castle in June but relaxed again. Home Secretary Tony Blair yesterday ordered an urgent review into royal security in the wake of our revelations - which dominated TV and radio news shows around the world.

Home Secretary David Blunkett has admitted employment checks on staff were "insufficient".

A Palace spokesman added: "We are conducting an investigation into how a Mirror reporter was employed."