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  1. ITV Report

Newcastle bomb scare was caused by piece of 'art' made of doll parts and wires

The artwork that was mistaken for a bomb Credit: NCJ Media Syndication

A bomb alert which saw a bridge over the Tyne closed for two hours was caused by a piece of "conceptual art" made of doll parts, a keyboard and a metal cylinder with wires sticking out of it.

Thomas Ellison, 32, left the "suspicious device" on the High Level Bridge not realising it may cause alarm and fear of a terrorist attack.

The bomb disposal unit attended to safely extract the bizarre article, which was a transparent lunch box containing a doll, circuit board and wires.

The "artwork" was stashed behind a pillar on the bridge.

A court heard it was there for three days, despite attempts by members of the public to raise the alarm.

Police at High Level Bridge Credit: NCJ Media Syndication

Newcastle Crown Court was told some people tried contacting Northumbria Police by dialling 101 but they couldn't get an answer, but the force have since stressed that 101 is frequently subject to high demand and should be used for non-urgent queries only.

When one woman did get through to report what she had seen, two officers went to the bridge but couldn't find the package.

After when the alarm was raised, Ellison phoned police to say he had left something on the bridge and he was told he should not be using the 999 system for that.

Ellison, of Lynnwood Avenue, Elswick, Newcastle, had been charged with making a bomb hoax but prosecutors accepted his guilty plea to causing a public nuisance, entered on the basis that at the time he did not think it would be treated as a suspicious device.

The artwork that was mistaken for a bomb Credit: NCJ Media Syndication

The artwork was made up of a doll's head and arm with a keyboard for a body and caster for legs.

The arm was holding a metal cylinder with wires coming out of it.

Prosecutor Mark Giuliani said:

The High Level Bridge was closed for just over two hours and it caused a total cost of just under £3,500 to the public, including eight claims for statutory compensation for delayed train services."

– Prosecutor Mark Giuliani

The court heard it came to light on Tuesday August 15 last year but it had been there three days.

Mr Giuliani said:

Members of the public saw it and some thought it was a piece of conceptual art and took Instagram pictures of it.

No-one dialled 999, some dialled 101 and couldn't get through and didn't pursue it.

One man spoke to some police officers who told him to dial 101 and he eventually got through.

In the meantime a woman rang the police and she eventually got through on 101.

Two officers went to the bridge and came back to say they couldn't see a package.

The woman went back the next day and it was still there. It had been there for three days.

Police officers said they didn't think it was a bomb.

A police dog with training in sniffing explosive devices gave a negative reaction and a second police dog gave the same reaction so the bridge was reopened."

– Prosecutor Mark Giuliani
Police at the scene of the bomb scare Credit: NCJ Media Syndication

The court heard Ellison then rang police anonymously, saying "I think I may have left something on the bridge which caused some disruption".

Brian Hegarty, defending, said:

The defendant says he was inspired to make a sculpture having seen a similar item on a bridge in Prague. He took pictures of it at the time."

– Brian Hegarty, defending

Mr Giuliani, prosecuting said: "We say a right-thinking member of the public would consider it to pose a risk, particularly in this day and age. The doll had wires coming out of her back."

Mr Hegarty said:

The defendant would plead guilty on the basis that at the time he placed the item it didn't occur to him it might be considered and treated as a suspicious item, thereby leading to disruption to traffic on the High Level Bridge.

He now accepts such a mistake could be made."

– Brian Hegarty, defending
Thomas Ellison Credit: NCJ Media Syndication

Ellison pleaded guilty to causing a public nuisance between August 13 and August 16, namely by placing a device resembling a bomb onto the High Level Bridge.

He was released on conditional bail and will be sentenced next month.

Following his conviction, Detective Constable Kim Day said it was "incomprehensible" that the student wouldn't have known the consequences of his actions."

Ellison placed what looked like a very realistic device on a major bridge just two months after the London Bridge terror attacks.

Not only did it cause a lot of concern among members of the public but it led to a huge response from emergency services and bomb disposal experts.

That all comes at a cost to the taxpayer and, at best, his actions were completely irresponsible.

If people have a burning desire to become the next Michelangelo then we would encourage them to use a bit of common sense."

– Detective Constable Kim Day