Palace burglar steals Prince's heirlooms

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The Independent Online
CUFF-LINKS and other items of 'great sentimental value' were stolen during a burglary at the Prince of Wales's apartments in St James's Palace, central London, it was disclosed last night.

The overnight raiders, who may have used scaffolding on the building to gain access, made off with 'family heirlooms', cuff-links, tiepins and other small items.

The break-in, which comes only weeks after a hang-glider landed on Buckingham Palace and Charles was attacked by a man armed with a starting pistol, raises urgent questions about royal security.

The Prince, who is due to return from his skiing holiday in Klosters, Switzerland, tomorrow, was told immediately. No apartments kept by other royal family members in the palace were burgled, a Buckingham Palace spokesman said.

He added: 'Some of the items taken are of great personal, great sentimental value to his Royal Highness. Some are heirlooms. His Royal Highness is naturally very unhappy to hear of their loss.'

Scotland Yard, which refused to discuss any details of security, is preparing a report by the Commissioner, Paul Condon, for the Home Secretary, Michael Howard. A 'full and rigorous investigation into both the burglary and the circumstances surrounding it' would be carried out, a spokesman said.

Last night, as streets around the palace were being patrolled by soldiers in combat gear, a Labour MP said he would question Mr Howard, on the 'abysmal' level of security at royal palaces, and the cost to the taxpayer of palace protection.

David Young, MP for Bolton South-East, said the burglar could have been an assassin.

'What he stole is irrelevant, it is the fact that a criminal, who could have been a killer or a bomber, managed to get past what should be the tightest security in the land.'

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