Back in March, The Telegraph reports this week, a gardener working for London’s Royal Parks was clearing leaves on West Island, 100 yards from Buckingham Palace, when he stumbled upon a skeleton that a pathologist later estimated had been on the island for three years. The paper explains that the remains belonged to an American man named Robert James Moore who was obsessed with Queen Elizabeth and appears to have set up camp on the island in St. James’s Park in view of the palace after moving to the U.K. in 2007. The details about the packages Moore sent to the Queen over the years–obscene photos, 600-page letters, boxes pretending to contain dangerous substances–are unsettling, but equally strange is how Buckingham Palace missed a corpse just outside its doors for three years. Reports in the British press suggest two main reasons why this happened.
For starters, West Island, unlike Buckingham Palace, is not bustling with tourists and Londoners. A spokesman for The Royal Parks explained in a statement that the island is reserved for wildlife–mostly ducks and swans, as you can see from the photo above–and not accessible to the public (the Royal Parks identifies West Island, along with the nearby Duck Island, as “nesting sites” for waterfowl). The only way to reach the island, The Telegraph explains, is “by swimming or wading across the shallow lake, or by taking a boat”–something people do on occasion, at least according to a homeless man in St. James’s Park whom the paper interviews. The area of St. James’s Park where West Island is located–shown in the bottom right of the Google Earth screenshot below–is also full of trees and foliage (The Royal Parks says Moore was found in “thick undergrowth”). The Telegraph‘s Christopher Howse points out that St. James’s Park in general has been a sketchy location–“just the place for a hermit”–since the 18th century.
The Royal Parks may have also missed Moore’s body because its Wildlife Officers only prune trees and inspect West Island closely every two years (the gardener discovered Moore’s remains during one of these inspections). “Going forward we are planning to carry out thorough inspections on a more regular basis,” a Royal Parks spokesman promised this week.
In case it’s not yet clear just how close West Island is to Buckingham Palace, here’s a map of St. James’s Park from The Royal Parks: