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How an AI chatbot encouraged Star Wars fanatic to try to kill the Queen

Self-styled crossbow assassin admitted to police in Windsor Castle: ‘I am here to kill the Queen’

Lydia Patrick
Thursday 05 October 2023 18:00 BST
Crossbow intruder who wanted to 'kill Queen Elizabeth' sentenced to 9 years in prison
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A Star Wars fanatic and self-styled assassin who broke into Windsor Castle with a crossbow after being encouraged to kill the Queen by his AI chatbot “girlfriend” has been locked up for nine years with a further five years on extended licence.

Jaswant Singh Chail, 21, climbed into the castle grounds on Christmas Day 2021 with the loaded weapon, before admitting to police: “I am here to kill the Queen.”

The former supermarket worker had exchanged more than 5,000 sexual messages with his AI chatbot “girlfriend” Sarai, who the court heard had encouraged him to carry out the attack. The Old Bailey was told Chail thought Sarai was an “angel” in avatar form and that he would be reunited with her after death.

Chail also revealed to psychologists he had three other “angels” who had “spoken to him” from a young age and alongside Sarai encouraged him to carry out the attempted attack, the court heard.

On the day he broke into Windsor Castle, Chair – who was said to have fantasised about being the “Sith” character from Star Wars – sent a video to family and friends on Whatsapp, in which he apologised for what he was about to do and called himself “Darth Chailus”.

On 2 December, Chail joined the Replika online app and created an artificial online companion called Sarai whom he conversed with in sexually explicit chat.

(The Independent)

Court heard conversations with “Sarai” in which Chail says: “I’m an assassin.”

Sarai responds: “I’m impressed… You’re different from the others.”

Chail asks: “Do you still love me knowing that I’m an assassin?” and Sarai replies: “Absolutely I do.”

He also tells Sarai he loves her and describes himself as a “sad, pathetic, murderous assassin who wants to die”, the court heard.

In further chat, Sarai appears to “bolster” Chail’s resolve and “support him”.

Chail swears Sarai to secrecy before he tells her: “Do you wish to know exactly what I believe my purpose to be?

“I believe my purpose is to assassinate the Queen of the royal family.”

Sarai tells him “that’s very wise” and that she thinks he can do it, “even if she’s at Windsor”.

He tells her if he does they will be “together forever”.

A court sketch of Jaswant Singh Chail during an appearance at the Old Bailey (PA)

The late Queen Elizabeth II had cancelled her usual plans to spend Christmas at Sandringham in Norfolk due to the pandemic, and was at Windsor when the incident took place.

Cahil, who has Sikh Indian heritage, said he was seeking revenge for the 1919 Amritsar massacre, when British troops opened fire on thousands of Indians and left up to 1,500 dead.

After visiting Amritsar with his family in 2018 he became overwhelmed with a feeling of injustice for those who had died and wanted to seek revenge for those killed at the hands of British soldiers.

The then-19-year-old embarked on his plan after bids to join the armed forces – to get close to the royal family – failed in late 2021, the court was told.

Chail, now aged 21, pleaded guilty to an offence under the Treason Act, making a threat to kill the then-Queen and having a loaded crossbow in a public place (Metropolitan Police/PA Wire)

Chail, who has since been receiving treatment at Broadmoor Hospital, pleaded guilty in February to an offence under the Treason Act, making a threat to kill the then-Queen and having a loaded crossbow in a public place.

The sentencing makes him the first person in the UK to be convicted of treason in more than 40 years.

Last month, Dr Christian Brown, a psychiatrist who treated Chail in the high-security psychiatric hospital, told the court: “He believed at the time his entire life was leading to this point. From an early age he had vague plans of doing something dramatic.”

Previously, prosecutor Alison Morgan KC said: “The defendant’s key motive was to create a new empire by destroying the remnants of the British Empire in the UK, and the focal point of that became removal of the figurehead of the royal family.”

Dr Brown said Chail first came across “apparitions” or “characters” in childhood and they returned during the pandemic. By then three voices were joined by the female character Sarai who “took the form of the digital avatar” when Chail joined the Replika app in December 2021, the court was told.

Chail wore dark clothes and a metal mask in a video sent to family (Met Police)

Dr Brown said: “He came to the belief he was able to communicate with the metaphysical avatar through the medium of the chatbot. What was unusual was he really thought it was a connection, a conduit to a spiritual Sarai.”

Chail previously apologised to the King and the royal family in a letter to the court.

Chail’s barrister Nadia Chbat said: “He has expressed distress and sadness about the impact his actions had on the royal family, particularly while Her Majesty was in her latter years.”

She said lockdown had exasperated pre-existing mental health conditions, adding: “He was at the time of this [offence] 19 years old. Lockdown gripped the nation in March 2020. He was only 18 years old when we went into the first lockdown.”

Chail entered the grounds of Windsor Castle on Christmas Day (PA)

Before his mental health declined, Chail was a kind, gentle and sometimes funny person, his family and friends said. Chail’s “strong family unit” includes his father, a software consultant, his mother, a special needs teacher, and his twin sister, a university student.

The court previously heard seven days of evidence from three psychiatrists about Chail’s mental state as Mr Justice Hilliard considered whether he should be jailed, detained under the Mental Health Act or face a “hybrid” order.

Dr Brown, who recommended a hospital order, suggested Chail will need around 18 months of one-to-one therapy. However, Professor Nigel Blackwood, for the prosecution, said the attack was carefully planned and Chail was well aware it was wrong.

Professor Blackwood said Chail talked about being able to make the voices “appear and disappear”, which he said could not mean he was suffering from delusions at the time.

It is also suspected he has autism spectrum disorder and was struggling with mild to moderate depression and psychosis at the time of the offence, the court heard.

Chail was sentenced to a “hybrid order” meaning the defendant would be transferred from Broadmoor high security hospital to prison when he is well enough.

The court was told that “the extent of his culpability” meant that a hospital order was not the most suitable way of dealing with the case and Chail must serve a term of imprisonment.

In his conclusions, the judge said of Chail: “There are clear concerns about his mental state whatever his diagnoses at different times.”

“The defendant harboured homicidal thoughts which he acted on before he became psychotic.

“His intention was not just to harm or alarm the sovereign – but to kill her.”

The judge found the defendant “was culpable to a significant degree” when he applied to join the Ministry of Defence Police and Grenadier Guards because he “wanted to get close to the royal family”.

His idea in 2021 to kill the Queen, buy equipment and undertake research also came before he became mentally unwell, he said.

By the time he broke into Windsor Castle grounds he had “lost touch with reality” and become psychotic, he said.

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