Police stations are accustomed to dramatic scenes, but one can only imagine how the jaw of the duty sergeant at Wandsworth police station must have dropped at the events that unfolded there on the evening of Nov. 30.
First of all, a shaken posh chap with a cut-glass accent, Thomas van Straubenzee, walked in to report that his BlackBerry smartphone had been stolen while he was using it. Nothing so very unusual in that. This part of London, just south of the Thames, is where impoverished aristocrats, who would really be happier across the water in Chelsea, rub shoulders with the denizens of the South London housing projects. Phone jacking is a common enough occurrence.
However, as the policeman began taking details from the aggrieved victim, who should burst through the doors of the station, complete with security detail, but Prince Harry, who was on the trail of his best mate, “Van.”
It was Harry who was on the other end of the line when the mugging took place, and Harry heard the attack unfold as it happened.
It was 8:30 p.m. and, fearing for his friend’s safety, Harry, who was at home at Clarence House in central London, rushed outside and leapt into his car, making directly for the Albert Bridge Road, the area of Battersea where Mr. van Straubenzee, who was an usher at William’s wedding, was walking when the attack happened.
Harry and his personal protection officer drove around the streets looking for his friend, but, unable to find him, Harry then headed to the nearest police station, on Battersea Bridge Road, where he found Mr. van Straubenzee, a childhood friend with whom he attended both Ludgrove school and Eton, in the act of reporting the crime.
According to an aide quoted in The Mail on Sunday, Harry “wanted to be there to offer some comfort and friendly support.” William and Harry are both close patrons of a memorial fund dedicated to Mr. van Straubenzee’s brother Henry, who was killed in a car crash in 2002.
Because he overheard the mugging taking place, Harry was required to report the crime and also give a police statement. It is believed to be the first time a senior member of the royal family has walked into a police station and reported a crime.
After the police had finished taking their statements, Harry took Mr. van Straubenzee, 28, home and then returned to Clarence House with his protection officer.
Amazingly, the mugger has actually been caught and the phone restored to its rightful owner. A Metropolitan Police spokesman told The Daily Telegraph: “A man was arrested on Thursday, December 1 on suspicion of robbery and bailed to return in January 2012 pending further enquiries. Police from Wandsworth are investigating. The property has been recovered. (There were) no reports of any injuries.”
The incident raises the intriguing possibility that Harry may now be required to give evidence in court. The case will go to trial if the defendant pleads not guilty, and Harry could be called as a witness.
A representative for Clarence House told The Daily Express: “He would do whatever he’s asked to do. That’s for the CPS [Crown Prosecution Service] to decide. He will do whatever he needs to do on behalf of his friend to bring the alleged criminals to justice.”
The news of Harry’s dramatic intervention will provide some welcome positive PR for the prince after another week in which his love of nightlife has again been under the spotlight.
On Wednesday he went out with a group of friends to the Winter Wonderland fair in London’s Hyde Park, but after revelers at the outdoor event spotted him riding the bumper cars, Harry made a swift exit from Santa’s grotto, going for dinner with friends at the Sloaney Jak’s restaurant in South Kensington.
He carried on partying at the posh Zefi Bar in Knightsbridge till 2 a.m., when he was photographed leaving without his coat.
The following night, Harry was out again, this time at the grown-up Arts Club on Dover Street in Mayfair, where once again he appears to have got carried away with the excitement of it all. According to The Sun, after a few drinks, Harry walked up to the stage, sat down at the drum kit, and started playing—to the other customers’ total astonishment. Lucky, perhaps, there was no swimming pool to dive into.
It was another 2 a.m. finish for the prince, who was subsequently snapped slipping out of a back door to a waiting black cab in torrential rain.
Whilst Harry’s supporters say there is nothing wrong with a chap letting his hair down once in a while, his detractors argue that his penchant for privileged partying does not sit well with his position as a very high-profile member of the armed forces, especially one who has made no secret of his desire to serve on the frontlines and argues he should be treated like anyone else.
But his role fighting crime on the mean streets of South London should go some way to fending off his critics, and prove what those who have served alongside him in uniform have always maintained—he may be a playboy prince, but, when you’re in a tight spot, Harry Wales is a good man to have your back.