Times Online April 26, 2006

Artworks spark security alert near London Tube
By Lee Glendinning and agencies

To one woman, it was art.

She had spent the morning placing five packages – some containing soft toys, some built of cardboard tubes stuck together, near Tube stations around West London.

To Scotland Yard, fearing a repeat of last July’s suicide bomb attacks, art did not come into it: the five "suspect packages" sparked a full-scale security alert.

Shortly after 8am, bomb squad officers rushed to Shepherd's Bush Green and Hammersmith Grove where the woman - who later described herself as a "performance artist", had placed the packages.

The scene was only yards from where a failed suicide bombing took place on July 21 last year, two weeks after the London bombings which killed 52 people.

Police and fire crews, including a police helicopter, were called after the first package was found in Hammersmith Broadway.

Concerned the packages could be nail bombs they hurriedly threw a cordon around the area and launched a major security alert.

Thousands of commuters were stranded as the Central, District and Circle and Hammersmith lines going through the Shepherd’s Bush area were all closed.

Roads around the area, a popular commuter route into central London, were also shut down as a precaution, bringing traffic to a standstill. People in local buildings were told to keep away from windows.

It took a good few hours for each of the five devices to be completely tested and cleared, but the costs of the entire police operation are likely to amount to tens of thousands of pounds.

Amid the panic, the 36-year-old woman walked into Hammersmith police station to explain that the artwork was hers.

Arrested on suspicion of causing a public nuisance, she is still undergoing questioning.

One of the art installations seen in Charecroft Way, Shepherd’s Bush, consisted of three cardboard tubes supporting a polystyrene "altar" on which stood some flowers and a note apparently lamenting the loss of one "Pelagius".

It read: "Your absence has gone through us like thread through a needle. Everything we do is stitched with its colour."

Four of the suspect objects were given the all clear by 9.20am, but a source said the fifth was mistakenly picked up by dustmen and police had to track the lorry down before putting a cordon round it and checking that the "bomb" was safe. Scotland Yard was keen to assure the community there was no security concern.

"Officers from local Safer Neighbourhood Teams will be in and around the affected areas throughout the day to reassure the local community that the incidents were not suspicious and answer any of their concerns," a spokesman said.

"Hammersmith and Fulham police have now returned to business as usual."