Teen, 17, arrested after child thrown 100ft from Tate balcony 'blamed social services'

Incident: Emergency crews attend the scene at the Tate Modern art gallery in London on Sunday (AP)

The teen suspect arrested after a six-year-old boy was thrown from the Tate Modern 10th floor blamed social services for his alleged actions, a witness has claimed.

The 17-year-old male suspect, who is not believed to be known to the victim, remained in custody on Monday after the child fell 100ft onto the fifth-floor roof at the weekend.

The boy, who was taken to hospital in critical condition, is ‘no longer in a life-threatening situation’, according to police.

A teenager was arrested over the incident, who witnesses said blamed social services. Here, a general view of the Tate (AFP)

The witness said in a phone interview with the New York Times that after the incident, he stood calmly surrounded by about seven or eight members of the public.

When asked why he had thrown the boy over the railing, the suspect replied it was the fault of social services.

The victim is in a London hospital after being found on a fifth-floor roof, the Metropolitan Police said.

A police spokesman told the Press Association that the child is “no longer in a life-threatening situation”.

“He is critical, but stable,” the spokesman added.

Witness: Olga Malehevska, who was on the viewing platform at Tate Modern gallery in London, when the six-year-old was thrown off
"Critical condition": A London Air Ambulance helicopter takes off from outside the Tate (Getty Images)

The witness, who did not want to be named said that security guards at first took the suspect into the cafe, mistaking him for a relative until someone shouted that he was the culprit.

A bystander then punched the suspect in the face before security officials led the accused into a toilet for his own protection.

Everyone was then told to leave the viewing platform, the witness said.

Another witness, a journalist from the Ukraine, said the ordeal was “terrifying”.

Olga Malehevska was on the viewing platform with her four-year-old son when the incident took place.

She said she heard a noise and there was some pushing. She pointed out that the platform was not overcrowded.

“I just felt like something is going on, I should take my child out of there immediately and we tried to go towards the exit,” she said.

Ms Malehevska said she could hear people say “Oh my God, the boy dropped”, and also saw a woman crying, shaking and shouting “oh my son, my son”.

She said they were all kept inside the building for around an hour and 20 minutes.

Ms Malehevska said she was amazed at how quickly the emergency services arrived.

Officers had been called to the gallery at around 2.40pm and the child was treated at the scene before being flown to hospital by London’s Air Ambulance.

Visitors reported on social media not being allowed in or out of the gallery while emergency services dealt with the incident.

A woman who was visiting the Gallery, on the South Bank of the Thames, told the NYT that the police operation meant they had initially been stuck in the museum before being allowed to exit.

“We were locked in,” she said. “We couldn’t leave.”

Scotland Yard said a number of members of the public are assisting police with witness statements.

Administration worker Nancy Barnfield, 47, of Rochdale, was at the 10th-floor viewing gallery with a friend and their children when her friend heard a “loud bang”.

Ms Barnfield turned around and saw a woman screaming “where’s my son, where’s my son?”

Members of the public quickly gathered around a man who was nearby, she said.

Ms Barnfield said: “We did not notice the mum before, we noticed her after because she was hysterical by then.”

She said the person who was restrained by members of the public before the police arrived “just stood there and was quite calm”.

But most visitors only discovered that someone had been injured as they tried to leave.

Lockdown: Police, ambulance crews and fire crews are seen outside the gallery as visitors were not allowed leave (Getty Images)

A visitor, who did not want to give his name, said they could hear an air ambulance which had landed on the concrete walkway in front of the building.

A group of uniformed police officers could be seen going into one of the gallery entrances at 4.53pm as the metal shutters were brought down and visitors were turned away.

BBC journalist Jonny Dymond, who was in the gallery at the time of the incident, said visitors were funnelled into a main hall while all exits were closed.

He added: “There were quite a lot of families with children, and security guards told us we couldn’t leave.

“There were at least two fire engines, 10 police cars and an incident control unit.

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“Parts of the exterior of the building were taped off.”

Tate Modern remained closed for the rest of Sunday but will open on Monday as usual although the viewing platform will remain closed, a spokeswoman for the Tate said.

A photocall for a new exhibition which had been due to take place on Monday morning has been postponed, she added.

100 feet fall: A general view shows the Tate Modern gallery with its viewing platform rising above and behind the main building (C) on the southern bank of the River Thames (Getty Images)

The spokeswoman said: “Tate is working closely with the police to help with their investigations.

“All our thoughts are with the child and his family.”

The Tate Modern was the UK’s most popular tourist attraction in 2018 after being visited 5.9 million times, according to the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions.

With the schools having broken up and holiday season begun, there are likely to have been thousands of visitors to the gallery on Sunday.

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