LITHGOW, Central West, NSW, Australia - Former Lithgow Police chief Cliff McHardy, who made international headlines in 2009 when he revealed details of an attempted assassination plot near Lithgow, has died.
Cliff McHardy was Detective Sergeant in charge of criminal investigations in Lithgow through until the mid 1970s. In 2009 he told the Lithgow Mercury one of the biggest disappointments of his career was an unsolved crime which involved an attempt to derail a train carrying Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Phillip in 1970.
Speaking to former long-time editor of the Mercury Len Ashworth, the former police chief said the train had left Sydney for Orange on April 29 1970. Unknown conspirators had placed a log on the track intended to derail the train. The Royal train hit the log but was dislodged by a sweeper. The police investigation conducted by McHardy was hushed up, he said, which hampered his inquiries as witnesses were told not to speak of the incident.
When the Lithgow Mercury published the interview in 2009 the story made international headlines.
Len Ashworth who wrote the story was a junior crime reporter at the Mercury in 1970. He said he was well aware of the incident. He said Cliff McHardy had approached the Mercury’s then-editor Bede Leighton and asked him not to publish details until the crime was solved. It was difficult, Mr Ashworth said, as around a dozen reporters knew about it and so did the most of Lithgow.
The incident, which has its own Wikipedia page titled ‘Lithgow Plot,’ remained secret for 38 years until Mr Ashworth published the story in 2009.
Cliff McHardy, who died last weekend at his retirement home in Glenbrook, in the Blue Mountains, aged 90 was also the football commentator for 2LT in the 1970s, regularly calling Group 10 rugby league games.