Man held on suspicion of trying to steal Magna Carta from Cathedral

Hammer holes in the glass case that houses the Magna Carta, inside the Chapter House, at Salisbury Cathedral after a 45-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of its attempted theft. Picture: Ben Birchall/PA Wire
Hammer holes in the glass case that houses the Magna Carta, inside the Chapter House, at Salisbury Cathedral after a 45-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of its attempted theft. Picture: Ben Birchall/PA Wire
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A 45-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of the attempted theft of the Magna Carta from Salisbury Cathedral.

Wiltshire Police said alarms were activated when an attempt was made to smash the glass box encasing the historic document shortly before 5pm on Wednesday.

Alarms were activated at Salisbury Cathedral shortly before 5pm Thursday after an attempt was made to smash the glass box surrounding the Magna Carta. Picture: Matt Dunham/PA Wire

Alarms were activated at Salisbury Cathedral shortly before 5pm Thursday after an attempt was made to smash the glass box surrounding the Magna Carta. Picture: Matt Dunham/PA Wire

Staff were alerted and police were called.

The suspect was eventually detained after witnesses gave his description to police.

He is being held on suspicion of attempted theft, possession of an offensive weapon and criminal damage, according to the force.

The Magna Carta was not damaged nor was anyone injured.

Salisbury Cathedral said in a statement: “We can confirm that at the end of the afternoon yesterday, a man attempted to break into the case which houses the Magna Carta in the cathedral’s Chapter House.

“He was arrested by police shortly afterwards and taken into custody.

“We are very relieved that no-one was hurt during the incident and that the Magna Carta itself is undamaged.

“We are very grateful to all who dealt with the situation so swiftly and effectively.

“We are very sorry that, for the time being, our copy of Magna Carta will not be available to visitors and will have it back on display as soon as we can.”

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Salisbury Cathedral’s copy of the text is one of four that remain in existence from the original 1215 charter.

King John issued the Magna Carta after agreeing peace terms with a band of rebel barons.

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

The copy in Salisbury Cathedral was written immediately after the rights were formally agreed at Runnymede and sent out across the country as evidence of the decision.

It features Latin text written on sheepskin by hand and still bears marks where King John’s seal was attached, according to the cathedral website.

Other surviving copies of the Magna Carta are in the British Library and Lincoln Cathedral.

Police are appealing for witnesses to Wednesday’s incident to come forward and the suspect has been taken to Melksham for questioning.

The disturbance once again thrusts the Wiltshire city into the spotlight after it became the focal point of tensions between Russia and Britain.

Two Russian men were accused of attempting to assassinate former spy Sergei Skripal in Salisbury using a highly toxic nerve agent.

The pair prompted ridicule when they claimed they had been visiting the city as tourists and wanted to see the cathedral.

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