OfficeCleaningManager Saves Anne
He’s a larger-than-life London “geezer” but Ron Russell often gets forgotten in the story of a dramatic attempt to kidnap a member of the royal family.
This week the 6ft 4in former boxer appeared in a television drama documentary on how he helped save the life of the Princess Royal 32 years ago.
The have-a-go hero tackled a crazed gunman, who shot four people as he tried to drag the princess out of a royal car in the Mall on March 21 1974.
Attacker Ian Ball was locked up for life, after Mr Russell landed a punch on him, enabling police to overpower the assailant who planned to ask the Queen for a £3m ransom in used fivers.
It is a moment of bravery that earned the staunch royalist the top peacetime gallantry award, the George Medal, and a moment of fame which has followed the 58-year-old ever since, as he ran pubs and a roofing business in Norfolk.
The East Ender, now living in East Runton near Cromer, appeared in Monday’s ITV programme To Kidnap a Princess, both as himself recalling the incident, and his role in the drama played by an actor.
The other people involved in the incident were security men, police and a journalist who were doing their jobs – but Mr Russell says he was just a passer-by with no time for “bullies and liberty-takers.”
Then 26, he was heading home after a day’s work as an office cleaning manager, when he saw a car swerve past the princess’s limousine.
“I pulled over and heard a lot of banging and smashing which I thought was the general rumpus. But then Ball shot a policeman, and I thought ‘that’s a liberty, he needs sorting’.”
The former heavyweight boxer went to punch Ball but only hit the back of his head.
“He turned round and fired at me. It missed by millimetres and hit a taxi windscreen.”
After trying to help the shot policeman he returned to the car, where Ball was trying to drag Anne from the car and Capt Mark Phillips’s grasp, like a “tug of war”, said Mr Russell.
“Ball had a gun at her head. I lent in to the car and said ‘come this way Anne, you’ll be safe.’ I pulled her out and held her in front of me. Ball got behind me, and I thought ‘if he shoots me in the back it won’t hurt as much’
“I turned and we were face to face. He was pointing a gun at me. I hit him fair and square on the chin. He went down and police were everywhere,” recalled Mr Russell.
When he received his medal the Queen told Mr Russell “the medal is from the Queen of England, the thank you is from Anne’s mother.”