Great Canfield roofer tells all after his daring jump off Europe’s tallest building
GLIDING into the quiet night streets of London from 850ft, a roofer from Great Canfield was unaware of the media storm he had created.
Dan Witchalls revealed last week that he had edged past security at The Shard - Europe’s tallest building - at least four times in the past year.
The Sun was the first to react with a story saying Mr Witchalls had created a security nightmare ahead of London 2012, asking the question of what would have happened had he been a terrorist.
Therefore, he is understandably cagey when we meet.
First of all I address the elephant in the room and ask why he had he snuck into The Shard and whether it was ever his intention to highlight the deficiencies in security at London’s premier building. His answer is charmingly simple - “that is what I do”.
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You see, Mr Witchalls is a base jumper and a very good one. He is the current world champion having won a competition in Benidorm last year.
It is his hobby and an obsession that has seen him travel across the world in search of the best jumps.
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“If you play golf for a hobby you want to play the best courses, I am a base jumper so this is what I do,” he explains. “I have been to Australia, Russia, China, America, Malaysia and Venezuela which involved a four day trek through the jungle so I could jump off Angel Falls.”
It is not just natural landmarks that he jumps off though. He is always on the look out for a building to jump off so you can see why Europe’s tallest building appealed to him.
“When the shard is complete it will be un-jumpable. It will be a pyramidal shape which will make it impossible to jump off safely so I had to do it before it was complete.”
His plans to jump the Shard had been a long time in the making and even included a jump off the building that used to dominate the space in central London.
“Everyone heard about the plans for The Shard and that it was going to be 1,017ft tall, making it the tallest in Europe.
“Before that there was Southwark Towers but it had to be demolished so The Shard could be built. When the scaffolding went up to demolish it I went and jumped it one last time.
“And I wanted to jump off the new building. I spent many hours driving past and watching the building go up slowly, waiting for my window of opportunity.”
He explained that at the core of the building is a concrete pillar. When it was high enough he packed up his harness and jumped off it.
Having filmed the whole thing on a head-mounted camera, Mr Witchalls revealed his story to The Sun – a week after a group of “urban explorers” had done the same. He admitted the reaction with the base jumping society had been mixed.
“Some have said well done whereas others have said I should not have said anything. However, the building work at the Shard is too far along now to be able to jump off it so I haven’t spoilt it for anyone.”
So what now? Does he have any ideas in the pipeline for his next jump?
“I have got a few more planned,” he says with a smile.