There is nothing at this time to suggest criminal activity was involved in a mysterious underground tunnel found near a Pan Am Games venue, but the intentions of whoever built it remain unknown, Toronto police said.
At a news conference on Tuesday morning, Toronto police deputy chief Mark Saunders said police are asking for witnesses to come forward to help them figure out who built the chamber and why.
The underground bunker, discovered on January 14 by a conservation officer in a densely wooded area, is located 25 metres from the fence of the Rexall Centre at York University, in the Jane Street and Steeles Avenue West area. The centre is to host tennis events for this summer’s Pan Am Games.
Police said the tunnel was filled in after all the evidence was removed.
When asked about whether police conducted any surveillance, Saunders would not say if it took place and if so, for how long. He said it’s all part of the investigation.
When asked why police don’t suspect criminal activity at this point, Sanders said, “there’s nothing illegal about digging a hole.”
But while police are still trying to figure out who built the chamber and why, they emphasized that the structure wasn’t currently thought to pose a public safety threat.
“I don’t have any evidence that suggests criminality at this point,” Saunders said. “But bear in mind I don’t have the intent behind this at this point, that could change. I’m open to anything right now.”
Saunders also said he doesn’t believe this tunnel was part of a threat to the Pan Am Games.
The deputy chief called the discovery of the tunnel “not your everyday find,” and said police would continue to investigate until they discovered who built it.
Sanders said it’s not known who constructed the tunnel, and that police are “trying to determine who built it and what were their intentions.”
“In light of today’s present circumstances, anything that we don’t have an answer to, we want to fully explore, we want to get the answers and if it compromises public safety, we have a concern,” he said. “So until we get what the intent is behind this, we’re going to continue to investigate.”
Saunders said an investigation has determined that the tunnel was used at some point during the winter.
He also said it looks like it took more than one person to build the tunnel.
Saunders said those responsible for building the underground structure, which had plywood walls and a re-enforced ceiling, clearly had some level of “expertise” in ensuring its structural integrity.
“A short distance away from the chamber, there was another smaller hole. Inside that hole was a gas generator, an extension cord was used to support power from that generator to the chamber,” Saunders said, adding that the extension cord was concealed. The hole was lined with sound-muffling material.
Saunders said police also found a sump pump to remove groundwater, moisture-resistant light bulbs, a rosary with Remembrance Day poppy attached to it nailed to the wall, plywood wall supports, a pulley system to remove dirt, and food and drink containers.
It looks like tunnel was built by hand and not by machine, the deputy police chief said.
At the news conference, police showed photographs of the tunnel and a ladder leading down to it. Police photos also show a pile of recently excavated dirt from the structure near the Rexall Centre.
Police measurements put the tunnel at six-feet four-inches high, two-feet 10-inches wide and 33 feet three-inches long.
Saunders said a large piece of wood obscured the entrance to the tunnel, and the ladder leading down to it. A lid was covered by dirt to conceal its appearance.
Police said no one was found inside the tunnel.
CityNews first got a tip about the cross-shaped tunnel last week, but its existence was denied by authorities.
A source told CityNews that the tunnel wasn’t leading anywhere and that the generator was running when it was found, and it looked like it was pumping out water.
The deputy police chief said that if the tunnel had been extended, it would have gone through other side of the hill and not underneath Rexall Centre.
Police have reportedly ruled out it was being used for drugs or a grow-op.
The Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games run July 10-26, while the Parapan American Games will be held Aug 7-15.
View photos from the tunnel below, or click here for a mobile-friendly version.
With files from Kevin Misener and Tammie Sutherland