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Christopher John Lewis (7 September 1964 – 23 September 1997) was a New Zealander who made a 1981 unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Elizabeth II, the Queen of New Zealand and other Commonwealth realms including the United Kingdom. He planned later attempts at assassinating other British royal family members and was kept at arm's length from them by the authorities in New Zealand.

Christopher John Lewis
Born(1964-09-07)7 September 1964
Dunedin, New Zealand
Died23 September 1997(1997-09-23) (aged 33)
NationalityNew Zealand
Known forAttempted 1981 assassination of Elizabeth II

Early lifeEdit

Lewis was born in Dunedin on 7 September 1964. He had a troubled life; his father was a cruel disciplinarian, and he was expelled from school after assaulting another child. He struggled at school and was unable to write or read until the age of eight.[1] As a boy, he idolised Charles Manson.[2] In his teens, he formed a would-be guerrilla army (the National Imperial Gurelia [sic] Army) with two friends. The group stole weapons, sent a threatening letter to the police, and robbed a post office of $5,244.[1]

Assassination attemptsEdit

On 14 October 1981, 17-year-old Lewis had been tracking the New Zealand tour of the royal family, who were to visit Otago Museum in Dunedin. Lewis concealed a .22 caliber rifle wrapped up in an old pair of jeans, and traveled by bicycle to the Adams Building, where he took up a position in a toilet cubicle. He fired through the window at the Queen as she was exiting a car. The shot did not impact near the Queen or anyone else, but a loud crack was heard; local police told journalists that the noise had been caused by a sign falling down.[3][4]

While Lewis did not have a proper vantage point nor sufficiently powerful rifle for his purposes, a 1997 report by the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service notes that his intent was to kill the queen.[5] Eight days after firing the shot, Lewis was arrested and charged with public possession of a firearm, and public discharging of a firearm. As the charges were read to him, Lewis responded "Only two charges, what? Shit ... Had the bullet hit her, would it be treason?" Lewis served three years in prison, with the last part in a psychiatric prison.[3]

The New Zealand Police covered up the story, charging him with possession of a firearm, but purposely keeping the event under wraps, concerned that it would create a negative image of New Zealand, and endanger future royal visits.[6][7][2] According to police files, Lewis was being asked about an unrelated robbery, when he took police to the position where he had fired at the Queen and showed police the empty casings and the rifle.[8] The facts of the attempt were classified, until released in February 2018 in response to a request from Fairfax Media.[5]

In 1983, when Charles, Prince of Wales, toured New Zealand with his wife Diana and their son William, Lewis unsuccessfully attempted to escape from a psychiatric ward.[7]

Later lifeEdit

Lewis was eventually released, and when a third royal visit occurred the government sent him to Great Barrier Island to keep him away from the royal family.[9] He was later charged with the murder of a young mother, Tania Furlan, and the kidnapping of her child.[10] He killed himself in Mount Eden Prison, Auckland, in 1997 while awaiting his trial.[1][11][12]


  1. ^ a b c McNeilly, Hamish (8 January 2018). "The Snowman and the Queen: The story of a Kiwi teen terrorist and would-be assassin". Stuff. New Zealand. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  2. ^ a b Porter, Tom (14 January 2018). "WHO IS CHRISTOPHER JOHN LEWIS? TROUBLED TEEN ALMOST SUCCEEDED IN BID TO ASSASSINATE QUEEN ELIZABETH, EX-OFFICER CLAIMS". Newsweek. United States. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  3. ^ a b
  4. ^ Cavell, Jordan (15 January 2018). "Assassination attempt on The Queen covered up by New Zealand government". Royal Central. United Kingdom. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  5. ^ a b "New Zealand teenager tried to assassinate Queen Elizabeth in 1981:..." 1 March 2018 – via Reuters.
  6. ^ "Ex-cop claims Queen Elizabeth came close to being assassinated on tour of New Zealand in 1981". The Sun. Australia. 14 January 2018. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  7. ^ a b Zoie O'Brien (13 January 2018). "REVEALED: How teenager tried to assassinate the Queen in shocking plot". Express. United Kingdom. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  8. ^ Barnes, Tom (14 January 2018). "The Queen was almost assassinated by a teenager in New Zealand, former police officer claims". The Independent. United Kingdom. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  9. ^ "A Teen Tried To Shoot Queen Elizabeth In 1981, Intelligence Report Says". 1 March 2018. Retrieved 1 March 2018.
  10. ^ "The Snowman and the Queen: The 1996 murder of Auckland housewife Tania Furlan". 14 March 2018. Retrieved 13 March 2018.
  11. ^ McNeilly, Hamish (12 January 2018). "Would-be assassin died in cell. The Snowman and the Queen chapter five: the end". Stuff. New Zealand. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  12. ^ McNeilly, Hamish (28 February 2018). "Intelligence documents confirm assassination attempt on Queen Elizabeth in New Zealand". The Sydney Morning Herald.