TORONTO (Reuters) - A mysterious tunnel discovered in Toronto near one of the venues for this summer’s Pan American Games contained a rosary with a crucifix and poppy, and there is nothing to suggest the tunnel was linked to criminal activity, police said on Tuesday.
The hand-dug tunnel, which ran for about 10 meters (33 feet) and was large enough for an adult to stand in, was discovered Jan. 14 in a wooded area near Rexall Centre, a tennis stadium at York University that will be used for the Pan Am games in July.
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. Toronto police said it likely took more than one person to build.
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.
While media speculated the tunnel could be used to store weapons or explosives, or to give attackers access to the Pan Am site, Toronto police Deputy Chief Mark Saunders was dismissive.
“I was not overly concerned that ‘Oh my goodness this is going to be something horrific’,” Saunders told a news conference. “We’ve got steps and measures in place to ensure this type of ... threat - if someone is going to be nefarious in this type of way - we’ll be on top of it.”
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.
Saunders said there is nothing to suggest the tunnel was linked to criminal activity, but that police are still actively trying to establish who built it and why.
“I’ve made it clear I’m open to anything right now, nothing is closed,” he said.
Saunders said the tunnel had been used during the winter and construction appeared to be ongoing when it was discovered by chance and police were called.
He said that once forensic evidence had been removed, the tunnel had been filled in to protect public safety.
Reporting by Alastair Sharp; Writing by Andrea Hopkins; Editing by Peter Galloway