I was paid £150 to shoot the King, claimed caretaker

A mysterious foreign power paid a lowly caretaker £150 to assassinate King Edward VIII, the Old Bailey heard in 1936.

But George McMahon, on trial after throwing a gun at the monarch, told his trial that his actions were part of a sinister plot which, as a loyal subject, he had deliberately bungled.

The prosecutors, according to documents published by the Public Record Office yesterday, insisted that McMahon – an alleged Nazi sympathiser – was a fantasist who had made up the whole story.

Edward VIII had just finished inspecting the Guard in Hyde Park on 16 July 1936 and was riding along Constitution Hill when McMahon, 35, pushed his way to the front of the crowd and threw a revolver at him. The gun landed harmlessly at the foot of the King's charger and he rode on "calmly'' as police and public leapt on his attacker.

John Remes told the Old Bailey trial in September of that year that his wife had spotted McMahon raising an arm in an apparent "insult'' to the King. Mr Remes, of Brighton, said he had called the Irishman a "swine'' before hitting him in the face.

As he was led away by officers, the assailant, who lived in a basement flat in Westbourne Terrace, Paddington, explained that he was demonstrating his particular grievances against the government.

But in court, McMahon, who described himself as a journalist, insisted that he had been approached by a "foreign power'' which had paid him the small sum of £150 to assassinate the King. Through an intermediary, he claimed, they had tried to recruit him as a spy but he had immediately reported the matter to the War Office. In an attempt to "save His Majesty'' he had simply thrown the nickel-plated revolver "because I did not want to shoot'', he said.

Sir Donald Somervell, the Attorney General, prosecuting, said: "I am going to suggest that this story about the plot is a product of your imagination.'' To which McMahon replied vehemently: "I wish to God it were.'' The caretaker's defence insisted that, while the story appeared fantastic, that did not necessarily mean it was not true.

The jury took 10 minutes to convict McMahon of producing a revolver near the person of the King with intent to alarm His Majesty. Sentencing him to 12 months' hard labour, Mr Justice Greaves-Lord said: "I am quite satisfied that you never at any moment had any intention of harming His Majesty. The conclusion that I have come to is that you are one of those misguided persons who think by notoriety they can call attention to their grievances.''

He was found not guilty, after direction from the prosecution on the suggestion of the judge, of unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition with intent to endanger life as well as presenting near the King a pistol with intent to break the public peace.

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