Toronto tunnel mystery solved, builders cite 'personal reasons'

Mon Mar 2, 2015 9:30am EST
 
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TORONTO (Reuters) - A mysterious tunnel discovered in Toronto near one of the venues for this summer's Pan American Games was build for "personal reasons" by two men who had no criminal intent, police said on Monday.

Days after police ignited a firestorm of media speculation by announcing the discovery of the "sophisticated" hand-dug tunnel near a tennis stadium that will be used for the Pan Am Games in July, they said they had identified two men who'd built the 10-meter (33-foot) long tunnel.

"The two men told investigators they built the tunnel for personal reasons. Investigators have verified their account and are satisfied there was neither criminal intent nor any threat to the people or city of Toronto. The investigation is concluded," Toronto police said in a statement.

While the discovery of the tunnel had led to speculation about possible terror links, police downplayed the risk and public focus quickly turned to jokes about Toronto's overheated housing market and failed efforts to expand its subway.

The hand-dug tunnel, which was large enough for an adult to stand in, was discovered Jan. 14 in a wooded area north of Toronto. Reinforced with wooden walls and ceiling supports, the tunnel had electricity supplied by a generator, a sump pump to remove water and a pulley system to remove dirt.

Police found the rosary with crucifix and a poppy nailed to one of the wooden supports. Such synthetic red poppies are widely distributed in Canada in November as an annual symbol of remembrance for soldiers lost in combat.

Canada has been on heightened alert for terrorist activity since a gunman attacked the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa in October after fatally shooting a soldier at the nearby National War Memorial. The attack by a so-called "lone wolf" Canadian convert to Islam came two days after another Canadian convert rammed two soldiers in Quebec with his car, killing one.

(Reporting by Andrea Hopkins; Editing by Nick Zieminski)

 
Deputy Chief Police Mark Saunders speaks at a news conference in Toronto, Ontario, February 24, 2015. REUTERS/Aaron Harris