How The Assassin Was Foiled
Daily Mail 25th October 1979
THE full story of a huge security operation to save Princess Margaret from an IRA hit man emerged last night.
The assassin, already suspected of taking part in the killing of Lord Mountbatten, planned to murder the Princess as she opened a Rolls-Royce garage in Los Angeles last Friday.
His plan was foiled after his cover was blown and a Presidential - style security screen thrown around the Princess. A nine-car escort carrying police and State Department sharpshooters accompanied her wherever she went in the city.
And last night, with the Princess now In San Francisco, the elaborate security precautions were still In force in case the hit man made a new move.
The windows of her hotel suite in a tower block, overlooked by other skyscrapers, were blacked out. Special police squads were on call, and British security and American special agents were providing 24-hour cover.
Reports of the assassination plot were confirmed by a State Department official in Los Angeles. The hit man, a high-ranking officer in the Provisional IRA, set up his headquarters in a motel in West Los Angeles. He stayed there for a week with another man and woman.
But just 27 hours before Princess Margaret arrived from Texas for her four-day Los Angeles visit, word of the plot was given to the State Department in Washington.
Rapid changes were made In her itinerary. She was warned—and agreed —to make no unscheduled trips.
The identity of the man stalking Margaret is known by police and FBI agents but it has not been revealed.
Police even have a photograph of him. He has visited California before, and a security file yielded fingerprints, background details -and names of associates.
Captain Larry? Kraemer, who headed the police side of the security operation, said : 'The man we are looking for has a history of violence, and it is believed he was involved in the death of Lord Mountbatten.'
The man, who is from Southern Ireland, has a green card work permit allowing him to live in America. He has made several trips to Ireland and has also travelled behind the Iron Curtain.
At first there was no clue as to where an assassination attempt would be made. Possibilities included a garden - party, hosted by British Consul-General Tom Aston, or the Rolls-Royce garage.
Then Tony Thompson, President of Rolls-Royce of Beverly Hills, told State Department officials that he had been asked to provide a floor plan of his new garage or to allow the interior to be sketched.
The request was made by two men, who said' they had been hired by Rolls-Royce to make a film of the Princess's visit.
'I knew that it was very unlikely that these people could ,be working .for Rolls-Royce without my knowledge/ said Mr Thompson.
Intelligence agents checked out the men and found them to be a legitimate film crew. !
They had been approached two weeks ago in a Beverly Hills bar by a man claiming; to be an international film-, maker. He employed them tai make a documentary of, Princess Margaret's visit.
The crew were told hat a floor plan or sketch was needed to decide the position; of lights and cameras. They identified to security agents the motel where the man was staying.
But when police arrived, the hit man had vanished, leaveing behind, an unpaid bill. He disappeared.,the day before, Princess Margaret's arrival in' Los Angeles but there was no certainty that he had aborted; his assassination plot.
'We had no alternative but to go the full barrel on the security orchestration,' said Captain
Surrounded Princess Margaret arrived to open the Rolls - Royce garage in a bullet - proof Cadillac instead of the Rolls originally scheduled for her. ;
There were 13 motor-cycle outriders and a nine-car escort carrying officers armed with sub-machine guns and shotguns.
A helicopter fitted out as an ambulance patrolled overhead, and the Princess's driver was an expert in offensive driving and countering techniques.
The Princess arrived 65 minutes late. She stayed only 35 minutes, which surprised many of the guests.
Her medical history, blood type and details of drugs to which she is allergic were given to doctors at selected hospitals along every route that she took in Los Angelers.
At the Rolls-Royce reception, police surrounded the building, and a gift to her from the company, a silver Tiffany purse, was sniffed by a dog trained to recognise bombs.
Scotland Yard last night denied that they provided Los Angeles police with information about the hit man.
But sources said that information could have been passed on by an even higher authority.
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