Palace car crash man detained for tests

Driver who knocked down two-ton gate is unlikely to be charged. Will Be nnett reports
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A car driver who knocked down one of the gates at Buckingham Palace early yesterday was suffering from a mental and medical condition which caused the crash, psychiatrists established last night.

The Royal Household now faces a bill likely to be more than £20,000 for damage to the two-and-a-half-ton cast iron gate. The driver, John Gillard, 21, from Wakefield, West Yorkshire, will be detained for further tests.

Mr Gillard, a student, had driven 300 miles through the night before crashing his Volkswagen Scirocco into the south central gate of the palace shortly after 4.30am yesterday. The left half of the gate collapsed on to the car, which was badly damaged although the man was unhurt.

The Queen was away at her country home at Sandringham, Norfolk. A Buckingham Palace spokesman said that none of the Royal Family were there. The noise woke several members of the Royal Household and brought police to the scene.

Mr Gillard was breathalysed and taken to Charing Cross police station, where he was examined by two psychiatrists. Inspector Jon Newman said: "This is not a normal thing that you would expect a sane person to do. He is being interviewed by a number of people before they can declare that he is fit to be interviewed by police."

Later Insp Newman said the assessments showed that the cause of the incident was the man's mental and medical condition. He added that Mr Gillard would be detained for further tests but refused to say whether the crash was an accident; he did not know ifthe man had intended to harm himself.

The matter is now regarded as being out of police hands following the psychiatrists' assessment and no charge of criminal damage is likely as the crash could not be proved to be a deliberate or reckless act.

After the damage was assessed yesterday a palace spokesman said: "The cost will come out of the existing budget for the upkeep of the royal palaces."

Although the spokesman refused to discuss security, tourists surveying the scene yesterday were shocked at the damage done by the car. Herb Jacobson, from Denver, Colorado, said: ``This may have been an accident but it brings it home how vulnerable the Royal Family are."

The crash occurred on one of the busiest junctions in London with 5,000 cars passing outside the palace every hour. Since 1990 at least two other cars have hit the gates. On another occasion a man was charged with reckless driving outside the palace and committed to a mental hospital by magistrates after claiming that extra-terrestrial forces had made him drive from Co Durham to the capital.