Palace intruder stirs security concerns

September 14, 2004|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

LONDON - A group that advocates greater rights for fathers in child custody cases sent two of its operatives over the fence at Buckingham Palace yesterday, and one of them, dressed as Batman, scampered up a ladder to a ledge near the Queen's balcony, sparking a security alert and a tense standoff with police.

Queen Elizabeth II and other members of the royal family were said to be vacationing at Balmoral Castle in Scotland. The intruder, identified as Jason Hatch, 33, unfurled a banner on the British monarchy's state residence that read "Super Dads Of Fathers 4 Justice, fighting for your right to your kids."

Although there have been numerous breaches of royal security over the years, Britons seemed startled by the ease with which palace security was overrun by two men in super-hero costumes carrying an extension ladder.

For several hours, Hatch waved at befuddled crowds of tourists denied access to the popular palace tour in its final weeks of the summer. He engaged in uneasy repartee with embarrassed police and palace security officials who tried to talk him down from the ledge.

After 5 1/2 hours, he removed his Batman mask and agreed to come down. A crane was used to extract him; he was arrested.

Fathers 4 Justice temporarily shut down the House of Commons four months ago when members in the visitors gallery pelted Prime Minister Tony Blair, making a speech, with condoms filled with purple flour.

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