Great Britain

Princess Anne kidnap attempt – what happened to the young royal in 1974?

A FORMER heavyweight boxer who dramatically rescued Princess Anne from a crazed gunman 46 years ago is selling the George Medal awarded for his bravery.

Ronnie Russell rushed to help the princess, punching attacker Ian Ball - who had fired bullets into the royal car - and saved her during the kidnap attempt near Buckingham Palace.

When was the Princess Anne kidnapping attempt?

Princess Anne was being driven along The Mall, central London, on March 20 1974 when the brazen attack was carried out.

The Sun reported the following day: "A gunman, with pistol blazing, tried to kidnap Princess Anne near Buckingham Palace last night.

"He used a Ford Escort to force an official car carrying Anne and Captain Mark Phillips into the side of the road.

"Then he pumped six shots into the royal Austin car."

The gunman, Ian Ball, had a "crazy plot" to "flee with Anne shackled to his leg" as part of his bid to demand a £3million ransom from the Queen, The Sun later reported.

How old was she when Ian Ball tried to kidnap her?

Princess Anne was 23 years old when hero Russell came to her aid in London.

She had been returning to Buckingham Palace with her first husband, Captain Mark Phillips, after the couple had attended a charity event.

They were not injured during the late-night attack, and Russell recalls Ball trying to drag Princess Anne from her car while her new husband was pulling her back.

"She was very, very together, telling him, 'Just go away and don't be such a silly man'," the ex-boxer said.

How did Ronnie Russell help save her?

Russell, then aged 28, punched Ian Ball twice in the head as he tried to kidnap the princess at gunpoint in Pall Mall.

He got out of his car to intervene when he saw the late night incident unfolding.

Now living in Bristol, Russell said he remembered the incident clearly.

He recalled: "It was very fast-moving but it is as clear to me now as it was the day it happened.

"I punched him twice. The first time was when I got out of my vehicle and I thought it was a road rage incident."

Russell was a 6ft 2in, 17-stone boxer who was then training at a club in east London, reports The Times.

He had been driving home to Kent when he spotted the drama unfolding, and immediately went to the princess's aid.

Russell used his fists to bash Ball, was fired upon, and then acted as her human shield.

He added: "I honestly thought that I was going to die. But I didn’t care.

"I still believe that the life of a member of the Royal Family is much more important than mine.

"I just stood rigid and braced myself, waiting for the shot I expected to come and hit me in the back."

Later, as a grateful Queen pinned the George Medal on him at Buckingham Palace, she said to Russell: "The medal is from the Queen, but I want to thank you as Anne’s mother."

Was anyone shot by Ian Ball?

Four men were wounded when crazed Ian Ball tried to carry out the first ever attempt to kidnap a member of the Royal Family.

Ball shot the Princess's chauffeur, minder, a cop and a passing journalist, Brian McConnell, as he tried to drag Princess Anne from the royal car before Russell's intervention.

The former boxer explained: "He shot (the policeman) and I went to hit him around the back of the head, and he turned and shot at me and it went through the windscreen of a taxi.

"He stood there glaring at me with the gun and I hit him.

"I hit him as hard as I could - if he had been a tree he would have fallen over - and he was flat on the floor face down."

Newsman McConnell had jumped out of his taxi and demanded the gunman handed over his weapon, but was shot in the chest.

Ball was later sent to a psychiatric hospital by an Old Bailey judge.

Why is Ronnie Russell trying to sell his medals?

Ronnie Russell, now aged 72, received the George Medal from the Queen as a mark of her gratitude, for saving her only daughter.

The Bristol man said he was now reluctantly selling the medal at auction as he is in poor health after suffering several strokes and wants to provide for his future.

He has revealed how, decades ago, the Queen paid off his house in Strood, Kent, after the incident.

Before receiving his medal he was visited by police, who looked around his home and remarked, "Oh, this is a nice house".

Russell told the Daily Mirror: "They asked if I had a mortgage and I said, 'Yes, yes, why?'

"They said, 'Well we are really telling you this a bit early but the Queen is going to pay off your mortgage as a gift for what you have done.'

"I thought that was wonderful. I was actually close to repossession at the time. They were going to repossess my home."

The Mirror quoted Buckingham Palace as saying the Queen's gift would have come from her private funds.

Russell's medal will be auctioned at Dix Noonan Webb in London next month, and is expected to fetch between £15,000 and £20,000.