What happened to Ian Ball, the man who tried to kidnap Princess Anne in 1974?

What happened to Ian Ball? Here's everything you need to know about Princess Anne's terrifying kidnap

Princess Anne, Princess Royal during a garden party at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, Scotland on June 29, 2022. The party is part of The Queen's traditional trip to Scotland for Holyrood Week.
(Image credit: Jane Barlow - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Back in 1974, Princess Anne was left fearing for her life after narrowly avoiding a kidnap attempt while she was on her way back to Buckingham Palace

Riding with her first husband Captain Mark Phillips, the couple were leaving a charity event on March 20 1974 on Pall Mall, when a vehicle blocked their chauffeur-driven car.

The driver of the Escort car that blocked the road was Ian Ball, who made his way out of the car and pulled out a handgun, shooting Princess Anne’s chauffeur and her security officer Jim Beaton.

A nearby tabloid journalist, Brian McConnell, was also shot down after trying to help the royals. Ian Ball told Anne he was planning to kidnap her to ask for a £2 million ($2.5 million) ransom - which he claimed he intended to give to the National Health Service to fund mental health treatment - before demanding she get out of the car.

A documentary about the incident, Princess Anne: The Plot to Kidnap a Royal, aired recently and now many are asking, what happened to Ian Ball?

Princess Anne

(Image credit: Getty)

Who tried to kidnap Princess Anne?

Ian Ball, a 26-year-old unemployed laborer, tried to kidnap Princess Anne on March 20, 1974. 

At just 23 years old, Princess Anne was remarkably courageous throughout the incident and gave the masked kidnapper a brave response. After shooting her security officer, chauffeur, and a nearby journalist who tried to help, Ian got into Princess Anne's limo and told her to get out - to which the princess boldly replied, "Not bloody likely.”

By a stroke of luck, Ron Russell, a former boxer, happened to be walking past. He thought the incident was simply road rage, but when he went over and saw what was going on, he punched Ball in the back of the head and helped the Princess to safety.

He has said of the incident, "As a 6ft 4in, ex-heavyweight boxer, I decided I was well-placed to defuse the situation. I wanted to prevent this fellow from getting into any more trouble. So I stopped my car and walked towards him."

Police Constable Michael Hills arrived on the scene and called for backup but was shot by Ball too. Finally, Detective Constable Peter Edmonds chased after Ball and he was arrested.

Princess Anne

(Image credit: Bettmann/Getty Images)

Speaking about the incident in an interview with Michael Parkinson, Princess Anne said, "He opened the door, and we had a sort of discussion about where or where not we were going to go."

"He said I had to go with him, can't remember why. I said I didn’t think I wanted to go. I was scrupulously polite because I thought it was silly to be too rude or that sort of thing."

She added, "We had a fairly low-key discussion about the fact that I wasn’t going to go anywhere and wouldn’t it be much better if he moved away and we’d all forget about it?"

What happened to Ian Ball?

After his arrest, Ian Ball was charged with attempted murder and kidnapping and was assessed and diagnosed with schizophrenia.

While he apologized for the incident, he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 41 years in Broadmoor, a high-security psychiatric hospital in Berkshire, and is still detained under the Mental Health Act. Ian Ball still resides at Broadmoor today.

Ian told police that he had believed Anne would be an easy target and that he had learned of her movements by phoning the Buckingham Palace press office.

Princess Anne

(Image credit: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)

He said, "I had thought about it for years… she would have been the easiest. I have seen her riding with her husband."

He added to the police, "I have got no friends. I'm a loner. I put a lot of thought and work into it. I can't expect people like you to understand or accept that I did it and planned it alone. Do you think I am part of the IRA or something? If there had been anyone else they would have helped me at the scene."

In 2002, the Guardian reported Ian had gone on a hunger strike and was referring to himself as a "political prisoner" but aside from this, it is reported that he is a model patient.

All the wounded parties in the kidnap attempt luckily recovered from their wounds and Inspector Beaton was awarded the George Cross by the Queen, while Police Constable Hills and Russell were awarded the George Medal. Chauffeur Callender, McConnell, and Edmonds were also awarded the Queen's Gallantry Medal.

Robyn is a celebrity and entertainment journalist and editor with over eight years experience in the industry. As well as contributing regular to woman&home, she also often writes for Woman, Woman's Own, Woman's Weekly and The Sun.