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Police appeal for witnesses after boy thrown from Tate Modern gallery

Scotland Yard said it was a ‘truly shocking’ incident with no distinct or apparent motive.

Emergency services at the scene (Yui Mok/PA)
Emergency services at the scene (Yui Mok/PA)

Police investigating after a six-year-old boy was thrown from a viewing platform at the Tate Modern art gallery want to speak to anyone who saw a male whose behaviour seemed “out of place” or “suspicious”.

The child is in a stable but critical condition in a London hospital with his family, who are being supported by police liaison officers. They are French nationals who are visiting London.

He was thrown from a 10th-floor viewing platform and found on a fifth-floor roof at the world-famous attraction on Sunday afternoon.

A 17-year-old male suspect remains in custody on suspicion of attempted murder, the Metropolitan Police said.

The force said it was a “truly shocking” incident with no distinct or apparent motive as they appealed for further witnesses to come forward.

DCI John Massey said: “We are providing around-the-clock support to the little boy’s family as they wait for more news on his condition and our priority remains to determine what led to yesterday’s events.

“We are grateful for the support of the public, some of whom detained the male arrested in the immediate aftermath of the incident. He was arrested by officers very quickly afterwards.

“This was a truly shocking incident, and people will understandably be searching for answers.

“At the moment, this is being treated as an isolated event with no distinct or apparent motive. There is no link between the victim and male arrested.

“It would have been incredibly distressing to watch, and it may be that you left Tate Modern very quickly after. If you have not yet spoken to us about what you saw, please contact us without delay.

“My team is also very keen to talk to you if you witnessed a male whose behaviour seemed out of place, suspicious or worrying, in the hour or two before the incident in or near the gallery.”

Officers were called to the gallery at around 2.40pm and the child was treated at the scene before being flown to hospital by London’s Air Ambulance.

Olga Malehevska was on the viewing platform with her four-year-old son when the incident took place and described what happened as “absolutely terrifying”.

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Olga Malehevska was visiting Tate Modern on Sunday (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

The journalist, from Ukraine, said: “I was standing on the balcony with my little one and he was touching the fence and we were making pictures.”

She said she heard a noise and there was some pushing, adding: “I just felt like something is going on, I should take my child out of there immediately and we tried to go towards the exit.”

Ms Malehevska said she could hear people say “Oh my God, the boy dropped”, and also saw a woman crying, shaking and shouting “oh my son, my son”.

Administration worker Nancy Barnfield, 47, of Rochdale, was at the 10th-floor viewing gallery with a friend and their children.

She told the Daily Mail a stranger who “followed” them around on the platform was “acting so weird”, adding: “He had his hands behind his back the whole time, his back to the wall, just watching people.

“We walked away from him then immediately when he was out of sight a woman was screaming ‘My son, my son’ and people were grabbing him.”

A witness told the New York Times that when asked why he had thrown the boy over the railing, the suspect replied it was the fault of social services.

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The viewing level has been closed (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

A Tate spokeswoman said the gallery would open as usual on Monday but the viewing platform remained shut “out of respect”, while a photocall for a new exhibition was postponed.

The Tate Modern was the UK’s most popular tourist attraction in 2018 after being visited 5.9 million times, according to the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions.

With the schools having broken up and holiday season begun, there are likely to have been thousands of visitors to the gallery on Sunday.

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