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Revealed: The plan to blow up TV’s Sir David

Hunting through records made available under Freedom of Information laws, Richard Osley has uncovered a bizarre plot to firebomb the offices of Thames Television in 1970


The scorch-marked reception area


The petrol bombs and fuel-soaked rags


TV presenter David Frost

BROADCASTER Sir David Frost was targeted in a crude plan to blow up television studios in King’s Cross, the New Journal can reveal.
In an unsophisticated but potentially deadly attack, an out-of-work advertising model hoped to leave the old Thames Television House in Euston Road in flames.
Details of the bizarre plot have remained secret for 35 years but due to Freedom of Information rules the police files surrounding the incident are no longer under wraps and have been unlocked by the National Records Office.
They include descriptions of how bungling arsonist Patricia Drew, then 25, walked into the former television company’s headquarters – once regarded as a state-of-the-art complex of studios and plush offices for executives – with a shopping bag stuffed full of do-it-yourself bombs on April 27, 1970.
The police files say she had become fixated with Sir David – one of the UK’s most popular presenters who boasts an impressive track record of scoring landmark interviews – and fellow chat show king Eamonn Andrews.
It is not thought, however, that either broadcaster knew at the time that they were at the centre of Ms Drew’s petrol bomb designs.
On the afternoon of the attack, receptionists and security staff at Thames were left shaken when she threw a burning milk bottle doused in petrol at a man at the front desk.
One building manager had to duck suddenly to avoid being hit.
Witness John Shea, the centre’s commissioner, said: “I heard a bang as it hit the wall. When the bomb hit the wall it was about three yards away from me.”
Flames engulfed carpets and a wall decorated with a leather-style fabric but the blaze was controlled before any injuries were sustained.
Staff at Thames later said Ms Drew had been seen in the building’s corridors and loitering near the props room.
She was arrested on the same day at a council flat in Copenhagen Street, Islington.
The once-secret police files sent to prosecutors building the case against Ms Drew, who months later was convicted of arson, confirm Sir David was her main target.
Ms Drew, who prison medics believed suffered from mental illness developed over two years, told police she thought killing Sir David and his colleagues would break a “wicked experiment” in which media bosses had tried to hypnotise her through her television set.
She said that things that happened to her would be broadcast in mesmerising nightly bulletins.
Detective Inspector John Harris later said in his report: “She (Ms Drew) formed the intention of blowing up Thames Television House and all the people in it, with David Frost as the main target. I should mention that she has never met David Frost but seems to have a fixation that he is involved… There is little doubt that she will eventually plead guilty to causing the fire. It should be made clear, however, that apart from this one fixation about television and television personalities she is otherwise normal.”
Ms Drew made a statement to police but changed her mind about signing it, leaving a half-written account in the investigator’s papers.
She said: “About two years ago I made an advertisement for Whitbreads Beers. After this I felt funny and when I had a drink I used to get very dizzy. I thought I was going mad and I went to hospital for a check-up but they said there was nothing wrong.”
There are no police mugshots in the bundle of papers but witnesses to the petrol bomb strike described her as having a dyed blonde hair and pimple-marked face.
Her work for the beer company was to pose for a poster advert.
In his own statement DI John Harris quotes Ms Drew extensively.
He said: “Ms Drew said ‘I had to do something so I decided to blow up the studios and try to get David Frost and Eamonn Andrews. I saw (how to make a petrol bomb) on television. I’m afraid it didn’t work very well. I was disappointed when it just flared up and didn’t explode. I waited around to find somebody in authority and when I saw a man sitting on the desk talking on the telephone he looked like someone in authority so I threw it (petrol bomb) at him. He looked important so I wanted to kill him and light the place. (David Frost) wasn’t there so anyone in authority would do. I had to stop the experiment’.”
Attempts to trace Ms Drew, who this year would celebrate her 60th birthday, have failed, although it is known she flitted from job to job in her mid-20s, working in Holborn and Islington in a photography shop and betting office.