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Man Tried To Steal Magna Carta, 800-Year-Old Symbol Of The Law, Police Say

British police say a man tried to steal the Salisbury Cathedral's Magna Carta, one of four original documents that have survived. Here, a schoolboy looks at the Magna Carta in the cathedral's Chapter House.

Police in Salisbury, England, have arrested a man who, they say, tried to steal the Magna Carta — the 1215 document that established basic tenets of the rule of law. "The Magna Carta has not been damaged and nobody was injured in the incident," Wiltshire Police said.

The police say the man set off alarms at the Salisbury Cathedral when he tried to shatter the glass shield that protects the Magna Carta. The document was not damaged, police say.

"Only four copies of Magna Carta dating from 1215 have survived the ravages of time and Salisbury Cathedral is proud to be home to the best preserved original manuscript," the cathedral says.

From the version of events given by police, it seems the attempted theft was not the work of a master criminal. There were "a number of witnesses" in the cathedral around 5 p.m. local time Thursday when, police say, the man simply attacked the glass box.

The suspect, whom police have not publicly identified other than to say he's 45 years old, was arrested for attempted theft, possessing "an offensive weapon" and inflicting criminal damage.

Wiltshire Police released a photo showing three holes had been punched into the glass that protects the Magna Carta, and they asked anyone who witnessed the crime to get in touch.

The Salisbury document is one of the original charters that bore King John's seal. The man who's suspected of trying to steal the Magna Carta is now protected by its 39th clause — the one guaranteeing the right to a fair trial.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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