‘French Spider-Man’ arrested after tower climb snarls up London’s financial hub
- Famous freeclimber Alain Robert caused ‘immense disruption to everyday business’, according to police
French urban freeclimber Alain Robert was arrested on Thursday after bringing parts of London’s financial district to a standstill by scaling the 46-floor Heron Tower – the area’s tallest building.
The 56-year-old “French Spider-Man” took about an hour to climb the 230-metre high tower without ropes or safety equipment, while traffic came to a halt as bemused crowds packed the streets below.
Police confirmed he was then arrested “for causing a public nuisance” and remained in custody.
“This is what I love to do,” Robert told a handful of reporters at a nearby hotel before his ascent. “I have pretty much dedicated my whole life to climb mountains, to climb cliffs, and now to climb buildings – but always ‘free soloing’, meaning I’m not using safety devices.”
The maverick climber has scaled more than 100 structures globally – including several in London – setting a record for “most buildings climbed unassisted”, according to Guinness World Records.
Watch: ‘French Spider-Man’ vows to keep climbing following ban
Earlier this year, he was forced to abandon climbing the world’s fifth-tallest tower in Seoul, South Korea, after the 123-floor building’s security confronted him halfway up.
Robert admitted on Thursday he was “very nervous”, adding he always felt anxious before an ascent.
“When I start climbing it’s OK, because I know I’m going to be completely focused,” he said. “But at this point of time I’m a little bit shaky.”
The Frenchman, who climbed with a small camera on his forehead, soon attracted hordes of mobile phone-wielding onlookers after starting at lunchtime from busy Bishopsgate on the southwestern side of the building.
Police arrived within minutes and cordoned off nearby roads, quickly clogging traffic in the area.
“It’s weird – that’s my office,” said 36-year-old finance worker John Doherty, gazing up at Robert as he tackled the lower section of the tower. “I’ve just come back from lunch and it’s a surprise.”
Robert threw his arms in the air in apparent jubilation after reaching the top before disappearing out of sight.
Before the stunt, he said he “definitely expected” to be detained – as had occurred after his six other climbs in the British capital.
“They always arrest me,” he said. “[In] 95 they were nice, and then after [it] started to get more complicated after 9/11 and everything.”
Several skyscrapers in London, including the tower at Canary Wharf, have taken out injunctions against Robert to prevent him climbing them again, according to his manager Bryan Yeubrey.
He said Thursday’s site was chosen from a shortlist of three, which also included the 224-metre-high Leadenhall Building – nicknamed “the cheese grater” – and the 38-story “Walkie-Talkie” tower.
“He just wanted to climb in London again,” Yeubrey explained.
However, police insisted the stunt caused “immense disruption to everyday business”.
“It also posed a significant level of risk to the safety of people in and around Heron Tower at the time,” said Commander Karen Baxter.