American helps save Magna Carta

Tourist from Louisiana fends off would-be thief

Hammer holes in the glass case that housed the Magna Carta, at Salisbury Cathedral after a 45-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of its attempted theft, in Salisbury, England, Friday Oct. 26, 2018. British police said Friday that cathedral alarms sounded Thursday when a person tried to smash the glass display box surrounding the Magna Carta in Salisbury Cathedral, and a man has been arrested. (Ben Birchall/PA via AP)

LONDON (AP) — An Amer­i­can tourist from Louis­iana helped stop a hammer-wielding thief who unsuccessfully tried to steal the Magna Carta at Salis­bury Cathedral, working in tandem with a church em­ployee to prevent the man from escaping.

Matthew Delcambre, of New Iberia, Louisiana, told The Associated Press that he and his wife, Alexis, were sightseeing in the southwestern English city when a man tried to shatter the glass encasing the precious manuscript in the church’s Chapter House. After Alexis tried to raise the alarm to others, Delcambre and other bystanders banded together to try to hold the thief back behind the doors of the Chapter House.

When the thief pushed past them, the 56-year-old IT expert gave chase into an outer courtyard. He grabbed the man’s arm near the courtyard gate and knocked away the hammer. A church employee tackled him and held him down.

“It wasn’t me by myself,” he said. “It was completely a group effort.”

The Magna Carta, which was protected by two layers of thick glass, wasn’t damaged.

Wiltshire police said Sat­ur­day that a 45-year-old man was freed on bail until Nov. 20 as officers continue their investigation.

Salisbury Cathedral’s Mag­na Carta is one of four existing specimens of the 1215 charter that established the principle that the king is subject to the law. It is considered the founding document of English law and civil liberties and influenced the U.S. Constitu­tion.

Delcambre, the director for the Center for Business & Information Technologies at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, said he has been a bit taken aback by the attention his efforts have earned, but told his story so that his efforts would not be exaggerated.