John Caldwell among familiar faces at Hillsborough Garden Party

There aren’t many things that can rival the appearance of the King and Queen at a garden party in Royal Hillsborough — but Detective John Caldwell’s appearance did exactly that.

The high-profile spy had not been seen in public since he survived an assassination attempt by dissident republicans in Co Tyrone in February.

After several weeks in hospital and recuperating at home, Mr Caldwell joined hundreds of guests at a garden party in Co Down village, home of the royal residence in Northern Ireland.

Before appearing in the garden, Mr. Caldwell had a private meeting with the king.

He then descended the stairs inside the palace grounds and took his place in the large lawn.

The senior detective, who has led a number of high-profile PSNI investigations, looked well and stood by throughout the event.

While leaving the party, Camilla spent several minutes talking with Mr. Caldwell.

They congratulated us on the campaign and Chris Heaton-Harris told us what an amazing campaign it was

Martin McGuffin

There were other familiar faces in the crowd, including DUP leader Sir Geoffrey Donaldson, Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris and PSNI Deputy Chief Constable Mark Hamilton.

Also present was Mairtín, father of Daithí mac Gabhan, who led the campaign to change organ donation laws in Northern Ireland, and who had the opportunity to meet Charles.

“I was the first person Chris Heaton-Harris let into the garden, I loved a yarn, I was talking to him about Daithi and the campaign,” he told the PA news agency.

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“They congratulated us on the campaign and Chris Heaton-Harris told us what a wonderful campaign it was.

“He was asking about the lack of donors, and to be honest, he’s been there for ages.

“The big thing that I’m glad I told them is that not only is there a shortage of donors, but pediatric organ donation is what we’re about and trying to normalize.

“He gave us his full support and was asking about Daathi. It was great to hear that especially around pediatric organ donation he wasn’t shocked or anything, he just said, keep going and keep doing what you’re doing.

“He was very friendly, it was a proper conversation, not just a handshake, an introduction and away. He was very interested in Daithi’s story, and I said maybe one day he could meet her. He said absolutely.”

“Unfortunately he was over 18 or else I would have taken him with me.”

The King and Queen also met children from Blythefield Primary School in Belfast, which was chosen as one of the winners of the National Coronation Bench Competition for the historic Royal Palace.

The competition invited schools across the UK to submit designs for benches to be installed at the sites of historic royal palaces as permanent reminders of the coronation.

The school’s principal, Catherine Roulston, said: “Our boys and girls created a coronation bench and were one of just 15 winners from across the UK and the only one from Northern Ireland.

“They designed it with protecting the environment in mind, including all the cute flowers and crowns, orbs and scepters made by the kids.

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“He took great pride in designing it.

“They were very excited to meet the King and Queen, it’s a day they will remember for a lifetime.

“I think they were overjoyed and we were overjoyed that they got on it.

“We were over the moon to be able to share this with them today.”

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