THE man who attempted to steal Salisbury Cathedral's "priceless" Magna Carta with a hammer has today been jailed - but what happened on that day in 2018?

At Salisbury Crown Court this afternoon, 47-year-old Mark Royden was told he will spend the next four years behind bars following his actions on October 25 two years ago.

Back in January, a jury found him guilty of attempted theft and criminal damage after using the tool to smash the security case holding the historic document - which cost 14,466 to repair.

Royden, of Kent, originally denied the charges.


During the trial back in January, the details of that day were revealed, including how Royden had planned his entry and exit, as well as how to remain hidden.

The jury of seven women and five men were shown a video of Royden damaging CCTV cameras in the cathedral, which prosecutor Rob Welling said the defendant had scoped out beforehand.

Salisbury Journal: The hammer Wiltshire Police recovered from the sceneThe hammer Wiltshire Police recovered from the scene

The court heard Royden then pulled a fire alarm before being chased by both staff and members of the public.

He had set off a loud alarm in the toilet area of The Cloisters before entering the Chapter House and damaging the glass case containing Magna Carta.

He used a hammer, pictured above, to strike the glass case containing the Magna Carta three times, causing three circular holes. 

Footage of Royden smashing a camera

After his attack on the case, Royden was pursued by “good-spirited” members of the public including a pair of American tourists, cathedral staff and stone masons who detained him in a works yard outside.

He was then handed over to police, who he then criticised for "taking your time" and having "no tasers or arms [weapons]". "It's ridiculous," he added.


Salisbury Journal: The damage Royden made to the case containing Magna CartaThe damage Royden made to the case containing Magna Carta

The trial heard that the defendant "doubted" the authenticity of Salisbury Cathedral's Magna Carta after making an "odd prepared statement" to police.

His comments included: “You can’t talk to me about the holy grail so to speak, if you find a bag on the floor which says cocaine on it, you would have to test that bag forensically, as for your holy grail, you would need a carbon test and a trace element test.”

Nicholas Cotter, defending, claimed that Royden’s intention to steal was “momentary” with an “air of spontaneity”.

The defendant was described as a “man with difficulties”, who “understands and acknowledges the risk he has taken”.


Salisbury Journal: Royden in the back of the police van after being arrestedRoyden in the back of the police van after being arrested

Detective Constable Richard Barratt, from Salisbury CID, said: “This was a frightening and upsetting incident for those who were in the cathedral at the time, although, thankfully, there was no damage caused to Magna Carta itself.

“I would like to thank everyone involved for their support and co-operation, but also highlight the public-spirited actions of the people who intervened and prevented Royden from leaving the site, detaining him there until police arrived.”

Speaking after Royden was found guilty, The Very Reverend Nicholas Papadopulos, Dean of Salisbury said: “We are relieved that the case is over and that a document of Magna Carta’s significance is unharmed and remains available to all; we are glad that no one was hurt in the incident; and we are proud of our staff, volunteers and visitors, who acted quickly and courageously.”


Salisbury Journal:

Salisbury Cathedral’s version of Magna Carta is one of four that remain in existence from the original 1215 charter.

King John issued Magna Carta after agreeing peace terms with a band of rebel barons and it is now one of the world’s most celebrated legal documents.

It established for the first time that neither monarch nor government was above the law and set out principles of liberty.

The Salisbury copy went back on display three months after the incident with the damaged case being made part of the exhibition telling the document’s history.