Queen Elizabeth II's record 65-year reign would've come to an end almost four decades ago if a teenager's plot had gone off without a hitch. Documents from New Zealand's intelligence agency, obtained by Reuters, confirm for the first time that 17-year-old Christopher Lewis tried to assassinate the Queen—and managed to fire a shot in her vicinity—while she was touring the country on Oct. 14, 1981, as first reported by Stuff. However, Lewis didn't have "a suitable vantage point" from his position, reportedly the fifth floor of a building in Dunedin, nor "a sufficiently high-powered rifle for the range from the target" who was exiting a vehicle, according to a 1997 memo. A separate 1981 document notes a police investigation was "conducted discreetly," with media apparently believing "the noise was caused by a firework."
Police are now looking at the case afresh following claims authorities swept it under the rug out of embarrassment and fear it would prevent future visits by the queen, per Reuters. Lewis—whose shot from a .22-caliber rifle likely passed above the crowd, per the AP—was described as "severely disturbed" and afterward charged with unlawful possession and discharge of a firearm, rather than attempted murder. When the queen visited New Zealand again in 1986, Lewis was sent on a paid 10-day island vacation, according to Stuff. He was eventually charged with the murder of an Auckland woman, whose infant daughter was abducted but later found safe. Lewis committed suicide while awaiting trial in 1997, denying involvement in the murder in a note left behind. (Here's what'll happen when the Queen does die.)