Real `phantom' stalks the Royal Opera House

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The Independent Online
A REAL-LIFE phantom is creating its own backstage drama on the site of London's Royal Opera House in Covent Garden.

A mysterious assailant is, on an almost daily basis, breaching the extensive security cordon protecting the ROH which is undergoing a pounds 220m renovation. He or she has hurled bricks, nuts, bolts and metal plating from one of the highest points of the building.

The attacks, which began earlier this month, occur during the day when up to 750 construction workers are on site. Despite the number of workers around no one has seen the culprit. The unexplained attacks have given rise to much speculation about ghosts, ghouls and things that go bump in the night.

``It's really spooky because no one ever sees the attacker, and the security is so tight no one could walk in off the streets. I was hit by a flying bolt last week - thankfully my hard hat took the impact," said one senior employee.

``Some of the guys are joking about the phantom, but it is worrying. We just can not think of a motive for the attacks. It doesn't make sense.

``Security around the fly-tower is extremely tight and yet things are still being thrown. It is not accidental or someone being clumsy, but whoever it is operates without being seen.''

Construction management company Schal is offering a pounds 2,000 reward to unmask the mystery missile thrower. The police have also been called in to join the hunt.

The perpetrator is now referred to as "the phantom of the opera" by the workmen who tread very warily around the backstage area - the attacker's haunting ground.

Missiles have been thrown from the 15-storey fly-tower, an enormous industrial space immediately behind the stage.

A spokesman for the Royal Opera House said he was aware of the backstage drama but, after checking through the archives, he said: ``There's no history of a ghost there, although there is supposed to be one haunting the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane.''

The ROH has been dogged with controversy ever since the renovation work began. An insider said: ``The last thing we need is talk of phantoms and curses.''