When Judge Nick Barnett watched the Royal wedding on television from his Easebourne home he never dreamed Prince William would help save his life just five days later.
But it was the heir to the throne at the controls of a Sea King helicopter on his first day back on duty as an RAF search and rescue pilot, who flew to his aid when the retired judge suffered a heart attack nearly 3,000ft up in Snowdonia.
The Sea King co-piloted by Prince William arrived from RAF Valley, a winchman was lowered who strapped him into a harness and he was flown to hospital in Bangor within the vital ‘golden hour’ for coronary care.
Judge Barnett, 70, was then transferred to a specialist heart hospital in Liverpool where he underwent an operation to fit a stent.
He was allowed on Tuesday to make the journey home to Easebourne with his wife Philomena and elder son Daniel, who had flown to England from his home in Kenya to support his parents.
Speaking from their Hurst Park home, Mrs Philomena Barnett told the Observer: “He’s making a good recovery now. He is very happy to be home again. He never thought he would see the view from the bedroom window again, but now he is home resting.”
She paid tribute to Prince William, the RAF Sea King helicopter crew, the Llanberis mountain rescue team, hospital staff and the couple’s younger son Giles who was on a walking holiday with his father, for their roles in saving her husband’s life.
“We have nothing but praise,” she said.
“It was thanks to our son Giles, who has had first-aid training, who recognised the symptons and called for help,” she said, “and Prince William and the Sea King crew got him to hospital in that vital hour.”
Speaking from his hospital bed earlier this week Judge Barnett said he was grateful to Prince William and all his rescuers.
“You see all the TV documentaries about the air sea rescue teams and it all looks hair-raising.
“Until it happens to you, you don’t appreciate the skill and bravery they show.”
An experienced hill walker who has trekked in the Himalayas, climbed Ben Nevis and travelled to the Rockies, Judge Barnet was hiking across the Snowdon Horseshoe with his son last Wednesday when he became ill.
“To begin with I couldn’t get my thighs to go up and down and then I felt discomfort in my chest.”
But then he realised he could not continue and sat down.
“The next time I stood up nothing happened – my legs wouldn’t move and I had no strength in my arms. I collapsed on the ground.”
Giles, 31, realised what was happening and raised the alarm on his mobile phone. A mountain rescue team was quickly on the scene and then the Sea King helicopter arrived.
“As I was being stretchered away from the helicopter I saw one of the pilots on the right-hand side looking at me and I gave him the okay sign. He acknowledged me. Whether it was the prince I don’t know.
“I didn’t know he was aboard until a nurse whispered to me in the emergency department.”