A child visiting London with his family from France was found on the Tate Modern’s fifth-floor roof after he fell from the museum’s tenth-floor viewing platform on Sunday afternoon. This morning, the British police described his condition as “critical but stable.”
A 17-year-old boy who was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder remains in custody after witnesses heard a “loud bang” before seeing a woman screaming for her son. There was nothing to suggest that the teenager knew the child, police said
Responding to the incident, the Tate Modern locked down its galleries, closing exits from the main Turbine Hall while police sorted out their investigation. According to eyewitnesses, there were at least two fire trucks and ten police cars called to the museum. Some visitors turned to social media, saying they felt trapped inside the Tate.
A police spokeswoman told the New York Times that the authorities were called to the museum around 2:45pm. The London Ambulance and London’s Air Ambulance also responded to the scene with videos on Twitter showing a helicopter landing outside Turbine Hall.
Security guards initially took the suspect into the tenth floor’s cafe, believe that he was a relative of the small boy. During the fracas, the victim’s mother came into the cafe screaming about her son. Moments later, someone identified the suspect who, according to a witness who spoke with the Times, replied that he threw the boy over the railings because of social services. No further explanation was given. Soon thereafter, a bystander punched the culprit in the face before security officials led the accused into a restroom for his own protection, according to the witness. Everyone was asked to leave the viewing platform.
Several British newspapers have reported the distance between the tenth and fifth floors to be about 100 feet. The boy was airlifted to a London hospital where his condition is defined as severe but unlikely to be life-threatening.
The Tate Modern is one of the British capital’s most popular tourist attractions. Last year, nearly 6 million visitors attended galleries, according to the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions.
Located on the south bank of the River Thames, the museum’s viewing platform opened in 2016 as part of an extension that offers a panoramic view of London — and into nearby luxury apartments. Residents of close buildings lost a court battle earlier this year when a lawyer claimed the viewing platform was a “daily intrusion into their privacy.” The judge suggested residents could install sheer curtains or tall plants to obscure the view.
The Tate Modern reopened on Monday morning, August 5, but the viewing platform remained closed.
Update 8/6/19 12:17pm EDT: The 17-year-old boy, who remains anonymous because of his age, was charged with attempted murder and is in custody. He will appear at the Old Bailey on Thursday. Police still have not identified a link between the two boys or motive for the act. Prosecutors say the 6-year-old suffered a “deep” bleed in his brain and leg and arm fractures.
Update 12/6/19 12:16pm EST: Today, British teenager John Bravery plead guilty for attempted murder.
BBC reports that Bravery’s lawyer informed the court that his client is on the autism spectrum, has been diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder, and that he possibly has a personality disorder. Bravery told police he planned in advance to hurt someone at the South Bank gallery that day to prove “to every idiot” that he was affected by struggles with mental health, hoping it would be broadcast on television. He said, “I wanted to be on the news, who I am and why I did it, so when it is official no-one can say anything else.” Bravery will be sentenced in February.
While the child survived, his family says that, “He is constantly awoken by pain and he can’t communicate that pain or call out to hospital staff […] We don’t know when, or even if, we will be able to return to work, or return to our home, which is not adapted for a wheelchair.”