(LONDON) — The keys to the historic Tower of London were stolen last week, British authorities announced Monday and this matters to Britons — the castle has played a critical role in the nation’s history and houses the queen’s Crown Jewels.
Police are now investigating how, exactly, a burglar broke into the well-guarded castle last Tuesday and managed to steal several keys from the site’s sentry box before being apprehended.
The burglar was reportedly spotted by the Tower’s famous guards, known as Beefeaters, but the guards did not immediately stop the suspect, instead staying at their designated posts and radioing for help.
Without a chase, the burglar made off with keys to the Tower’s drawbridges and conference rooms and a restaurant, according to Historic Royal Palaces, the non-profit organization that operates the premises. The Tower is one of the world’s major tourist attractions, with more than two million visitors each year.
The burglar, who struck in the early morning hours, managed to make it all the way to the gate at the main entrance before being apprehended, a Historic Royal Palaces spokeswoman told the AFP.
Officials say that the burglar at no time had access to the Crown Jewels, the crowns and scepters used by Queen Elizabeth II on ceremonial occasions, according to the AFP.
The Tower of London is guarded by both the Yeoman Warders, nicknamed Beefeaters, who each must have completed a minimum 22 years’ military service to guard the Tower, and a private security firm.
Historic Royal Palaces defended its security protocol but also acknowledged the procedures were, in this instance, “not carried out to the expected standard,” and said they are pursuing a “staff disciplinary procedure.”
A police investigation is also underway.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Paul Cruickshank and Michael Pearson, CNN