London - French
urban freeclimber Alain Robert was arrested on Thursday after bringing
parts of London's financial district to a standstill by scaling the
46-storey Heron Tower - the area's tallest building.
The 56-year-old so-called "French Spiderman" took around an hour to
climb the 230m high tower without ropes or safety equipment, while
traffic came to a halt as bemused crowds packed the streets below.
Police in the City of London, the capital's square-mile financial
centre, confirmed he was then arrested "for causing a public nuisance"
and remained in custody Thursday afternoon.
"This is what I love to do," Robert had told a handful of reporters at a nearby hotel shortly before beginning 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 previously - setting a record for "most
buildings climbed unassisted," according to Guinness World Records.
Earlier this year, he was forced to abandon climbing the world's
fifth-tallest tower in Seoul, South Korea, after the 123-storey
building's security confronted him halfway up.
Robert admitted Thursday he was "very nervous", adding he always felt anxious ahead of an ascent.
"When I start climbing it's OK, because I know I'm going to be completely focused," he added.
"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
mixed-use tower, home to offices, restaurants and a bar.
"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.
Prior to 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 added.
"(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 224m-high Leadenhall Building - nicknamed "the
cheesegrater" - and the 38-story "Walkie-Talkie" tower.
"He just wanted to climb in London again," Yeubrey explained.
However, City of London Police criticised the stunt for causing "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.