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Man who saved Anne had mortgage paid off by Queen

Ronnie Russell has revealed the monarch’s gesture of thanks after the 1974 incident.

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Ian Ball’s Ford Escort, and the royal car close behind, which were involved in the shooting and kidnapping attempt in Pall Mall (PA)

Ian Ball’s Ford Escort, and the royal car close behind, which were involved in the shooting and kidnapping attempt in Pall Mall (PA)

Ian Ball’s Ford Escort, and the royal car close behind, which were involved in the shooting and kidnapping attempt in Pall Mall (PA)

A man who is selling a bravery medal awarded for saving Princess Anne from a kidnapping has reportedly revealed he had his mortgage paid off by the Queen as a mark of gratitude.

Former heavyweight boxer Ronnie Russell, 72, punched Ian Ball twice in the head as he tried to kidnap the princess at gunpoint in Pall Mall in March 1974.

Mr Russell, who got out of his car to intervene when he saw the late night incident unfolding, was later awarded the George Medal by the Queen, who told him: “The medal is from the Queen, but I want to thank you as Anne’s mother.”

Mr Russell, of Bristol, is now reluctantly selling the medal at auction as he is in poor health after suffering several strokes and wants to provide for his future.

Ronnie Russell
Ronnie Russell was a 28-year-old former boxer when he went to the aid of the princess (PA)

He has, however, revealed how the Queen paid off his house in Strood, Kent, after the incident, in which Ball shot the Princess’s chauffeur, minder, a policeman and a passing journalist as he tried to drag Princess Anne from a car before Mr Russell’s intervention.

Mr Russell said before receiving his medal he was visited by police.

“They were looking round my home and saying, ‘Oh this is a nice house’,” he told the Daily Mirror. “They asked if I had a mortgage and I said, ‘Yes, yes, why?’

“They said, ‘Well we are really telling you this a bit early but the Queen is going to pay off your mortgage as a gift for what you have done.’

“I thought that was wonderful. I was actually close to repossession at the time. They were going to repossess my home. So I dug myself out of that one.”

The Mirror quoted Buckingham Palace as saying the Queen’s gift would have come from her private funds.

Mr Russell’s medal will be auctioned at Dix Noonan Webb in London next month, and is expected to fetch between £15,000 and £20,000.

George Medal
The George Medal is thought to be the first award given for bravery during the attempted kidnapping to be sold (Dix Noonan Webb/PA)

Now living in Bristol, Mr Russell said he remembered the incident clearly.

“It was very fast-moving but it is as clear to me now as it was the day it happened,” Mr Russell said.

“I punched him twice. The first time was when I got out of my vehicle and I thought it was a road rage incident.

“He shot (the policeman) and I went to hit him around the back of the head, and he turned and shot at me and it went through the windscreen of a taxi.”

Mr Russell said Ball was trying to drag Princess Anne from her car while her new husband, Captain Mark Phillips, was pulling her back.

“She was very, very together, telling him, ‘Just go away and don’t be such a silly man’,” he said.

“He stood there glaring at me with the gun and I hit him. I hit him as hard as I could – if he had been a tree he would have fallen over – and he was flat on the floor face down.”

Ball was later sent to a psychiatric hospital by an Old Bailey judge.

PA