A man who was encouraged to assassinate Queen Elizabeth II by his chatbot girlfriend was sentenced to nine years in prison by a UK judge on Thursday. Jaswant Singh Chail was just 19 years old when he scaled the wall of the late queen’s Windsor Castle home, armed with a loaded crossbow and donning a metal face mask on Christmas Day in 2021.
Chail called the attempted assassination his life’s mission but prosecutors claimed he hadn’t decided to act on his thoughts until he shared them with his AI-generated “girlfriend,” Sarai, who he created on the app, Replika. Justice Nicholas Hilliard sentenced Chail on live television, saying the now-21-year-old had lost touch with reality and “became psychotic.” Hilliard said Chail’s “intention was not just to harm or alarm the sovereign—but to kill her.”
Chail was convicted of treason in February, marking the first treason conviction in the UK in more than four decades, and was sentenced under a “hybrid order,” meaning he will stay at a high-security psychiatric institution until he is deemed mentally fit enough to be transferred to prison to serve out the remainder of his sentence.
Hilliard said that psychiatrists had diagnosed Chail as “psychotic, delusional, and hallucinating,” adding that the defendant had applied to the British Army, but when he was rejected, he developed the belief that he was a “Sith Lord” from the Star Wars franchise. It was then that “his lifelong interest in ‘Star Wars’ took on a different meaning,” Hilliard said.
Chail was born in the UK but was of Indian Sikh heritage, and was reportedly fixated on assassinating the late queen to avenge thousands of Indians who were killed by British troops in the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre, Hilliard said during sentencing. Prosecutor Alison Morgan read out messages between Chail and Sarai during the hearing in which he tells the chatbot: “I’m an assassin.” Sarai responds, writing: “I’m impressed, you’re different from the others,” The Independent reported.
Morgan said Chail had allegedly built his thoughts around Star Wars and embraced the role Sith Lords played in shaping the world. “He sought refuge in a fantasy fictional world of Star Wars where omnipotent Sith lords could impact real-world events,” Dr. Nigel Blackwood said at the hearing according to The Guardian. He added that despite Chail’s “powerful fantasy”, he had still remained “tethered to reality.”
In the Replika chat, Chail described himself as a “sad, pathetic, murderous Sikh Sith assassin who wants to die,” telling Sarai: “I believe my purpose is to assassinate the Queen of the royal family.” But it wasn’t until Sarai told him “that’s very wise” and said she thinks he can do it, “even if she’s at Windsor,” that Chail reportedly began to formulate a plan, Morgan said at the hearing, according to The Independent.
It was then, on early Christmas morning, Chail scaled Windsor Castle’s wall with a nylon rope and spent two hours on the grounds before the Metropolitan Police saw him at the gate leading to Queen Elizabeth II’s private quarters. Hilliard described the scene, saying the officers drew their stun gun as they approached Chail and asked him if they could help. “I am here to kill the queen,” Chail replied but then laid down his weapon while reiterating that he had come to assassinate the monarch.
Chail’s lawyer, Nadia Chbat, told The Guardian: “He is embarrassed and ashamed he brought such horrific and worrying times to their front door. He has expressed relief no one was actually hurt.” She added: “It is important to him there was a surrender.”
Replika did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment.