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Last Updated: Monday, 5 May, 2003, 11:47 GMT 12:47 UK
Men gatecrash royal residence
Prince Charles
Prince Charles lives at Highgrove with his sons

Five men from Cardiff stole a plastic owl from the grounds of a royal residence after a drinking session last week, it has emerged.

But police have defended security at the Prince of Wales' Highgrove estate in Doughton Gloucestershire, saying there was no risk during the incident.

The men claim to have spent 30 minutes in the grounds without being challenged on 1 May.

They stole a plastic owl used to scare off birds, but a Gloucestershire police spokesman said their presence did not constitute a security risk.

"The bird scarer was taken from a tree just 20ft inside the estate land but outside the protected boundary area of Highgrove House," he said.

"This, therefore, was not a royal security breach.

The Cardiff men entered the Highgrove Estate

"The stolen item, a sparrowhawk scarer, was of minimum value."

Police have a station within the grounds of Highgrove and the prince's gardens are monitored by surveillance cameras.

Two of the five men were later arrested and detained overnight for questioning about the incident on Thursday.

One was released without charge and the other was cautioned for the theft of the owl.

A spokesman for St James' Palace said: "This group were a long way from the main security area of the house.

"In terms of the house and the main area, the security at Highgrove was not compromised."

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