Whoever dug the ominous tunnel near the Rexall Centre — one of the venues for this summer’s Pan Am Games — likely has some construction or engineering experience, a whole lot of free time and apparently some deference for veterans and Christianity.
But, for now, Toronto Police say their identities remain as mysterious as the bunker-like chamber they constructed beneath the ground in wooded North York ravine.
“We’re trying to find and establish who built it, why they built it and what were their intentions,” Deputy Chief Mark Saunders said Tuesday at headquarters.
Saunders said whoever dug the tunnel in Black Creek Parkland, northeast of Jane St. and Finch Ave. W., didn’t commit a criminal offence and so far, police have found no evidence of anything illegal after five weeks of investigating.
“Until we find intent, that’s what will cross it over into criminal aspect, if we get that evidence,” he said.
The tunnel was discovered Jan. 14 by a conservation officer who noticed a mound of dirt in the woods just south of Shoreham Dr., just outside the western edge of the Rexall Centre’s tennis courts.
Police have kept quiet about the tunnel while they investigated, but they were forced to talk about the tunnel once the media got wind of it.
Saunders said it’s likely more than one person was involved in digging the tunnel.
And the work was done by hand, which may have taken weeks or months.
Police released photos of the tunnel, which has since been filled in and is now covered over with snow.
The tunnel measured about two metres high, 10 metres long and 0.6 metres wide.
The walls were reinforced with sheets of plywood and 2-by-4s.
A pulley system was in place to remove soil.
The tunnel was the subject of a lot of speculation in the city and even attracted the attention of horror author Stephen King, who tweeted: “OK, Mystery Tunnel solved. A wormhole kind of thing. Aliens were going to use it to watch tennis at the Rexall Centre without pay”
Toronto Police Sgt. Chris Boddy also took to Twitter: “If you built a tunnel near the Rexall Centre in #Toronto give us a call, k? 416-808-222”
The mystery tunnel was equipped with a sump pump to drain water, moisture-resistant lighting — both were powered by an extension cord that was plugged into a gas generator, located in a shallow hole near the tunnel’s entrance.
A noise dampening material covered the secondary hole to mask the sound of the generator and lights ensured work could be done by day or night.
Perhaps the most bizarre items in the tunnel were the wooden rosary beads and Remembrance Day poppy nailed to a wall, which Saunders said was “not your everyday find.”
He said frozen water coming from the end of a hose suggested someone had run the sump pump this winter, but it’s not known when construction began and how long the tunnel had been in the works.
“We can’t put a definitive timeline on it,” Saunders said.
He did say the mound of dirt would easily have been hidden by foliage in the summer and early fall, but once the leaves fell from the trees, the mound was exposed and quite visible.
The discovery of the tunnel has raised fears of a possible terror attack, especially at the upcoming Pam Am Games.
But Saunders, executive officer in charge of security for the Games, said he wasn’t “overly concerned” about safety issues for the tennis matches, which will be played at the Rexall Centre in July.
“We’ve got steps and measures in place to ensure that this type of thing or this type of threat, if someone is going to be nefarious in this type of way, we’ll be on top of it,” he said.
Saunders added that the tunnel wasn’t heading beneath any buildings at the Rexall Centre and, had the digging continued, without going much deeper, it would have exited on the far side of a hill outside the fenced in property.