A student who sparked a bridge bomb scare with a bizarre piece of art – containing a doll’s head and wires – has been sentenced to 90 hours of community service.
Thomas Ellison caused travel chaos in Newcastle when he left the object behind a pillar on the High Level Bridge, just two months after the deadly London Bridge terror attack.
The 33-year-old had seen similar artwork on a bridge in Prague, and didn’t think it would spark a major scare or fears of a terror attack back home.
But his "conceptual art" – a transparent lunch box containing doll parts, a circuit board and a metal cylinder with wires – forced the bridge over the Tyne to close for two hours.
The transparent box contained doll parts, a circuit board and wires
A bomb disposal unit was called in to inspect the suspicious object to see if it contained explosives and posed a legitimate threat.
Ellison, of Newcastle, phoned 999 in a bid to get the artwork back, saying: "I think I may have left something on the bridge which caused some disruption."
But the handler, believing it was a non-emergency query about seized property, told him to call 101.
The following day, he called 101 and said it was not a bomb hoax.
Thomas Ellison, 33, admitted causing a public nuisance
Detectives identified Ellison through fingerprints found on a phone box.
He was arrested and questioned, but told police he had seen a similar exhibit in Prague and denied that it was a bomb hoax.
Ellison pleaded guilty at Newcastle Crown Court in October to causing a public nuisance.
A judge at Newcastle Crown Court today gave the artist a six month community order and sentenced him to carry out 90 hours of unpaid work.
He was initially charged with making a bomb hoax, but prosecutors accepted the guilty plea based on his claims that he didn’t think the artwork would be mistaken for an explosive device.
It was made up of a doll’s head and arm – holding a metal cylinder with wires coming out of it – with a keyboard for a body and caster for legs, Chronicle Live reported.
Passers-by thought the artwork was an explosive device
The artwork had been on a bridge walkway for three days even though passers-by who saw it had tried to raise the alarm.
Concerned residents had tried to call Northumbria Police on 101 but received no response, the court heard.
Two police went to the bridge after one report, but they were unable to find the box.
When it was finally discovered by police, the bridge was shut to vehicles, trains and pedestrians for two hours on August 15 last year.
Despite Ellison’s claims, police said it was "incomprehensible" that he wouldn’t have known the consequences of leaving the artwork on the bridge.
After last month’s hearing, Detective Constable Kim Day said: "Ellison placed what looked like a very realistic device on a major bridge just two months after the London Bridge terror attacks.
"It is incomprehensible that he would not have understood the impact his actions would have had on the immediate area.
"If people have a burning desire to become the next Michelangelo then we would encourage them to use a bit of common sense."
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