A daredevil jailed for scaling The Shard skyscraper without permission or safety equipment walked free from prison Friday — and said climbing the London landmark was worth being jailed.
George King-Thompson, 20, was greeted by family and friends as he left London’s Pentonville prison after three months behind bars.
“I just saw it as success fee for achieving my dream so for that reason it was worth every second in there,” he told AFP moments after he was released.
“I’m happy it’s over… to be out in the open I feel like I’m floating.”
King-Thompson, a self-proclaimed “urban explorer”, was jailed in October for breaching a civil injunction on climbing the 309.6-metre-tall (1,016-foot-tall) tower, one of Europe’s tallest.
The six-month sentence, of which he served half, was criticised by supporters, including renowned free-solo climber Alain Robert — dubbed the “French Spiderman” for his own spectacular ascents.
Robert, 57, who has been scaling skyscrapers unaided around the world since 1994, flew to London from his current base in Bali, Indonesia, to greet King-Thompson upon his release.
“George’s case is quite insane,” he said, noting he himself had climbed different London towers six times without being jailed.
“I found it totally unfair, because if I am comparing the treatment that I’ve had over the last 20 years and what they did to this guy, it’s kind of disgusting.”
King-Thompson called Robert’s support “an honour”.
“He is the Muhammad Ali of urban free solo,” he said.
– Disproportionate –
King-Thompson, who had wanted to free-climb The Shard since first setting eyes on it aged 13, was initially given a police caution after conquering the pyramid-shaped building on July 8.
But the complex’s leaseholders, Teighmore, and another firm, LBQ Fielden, asked the High Court to jail him for breaching one of two injunctions against trespassing on the site.
The Shard had been previously targeted by so-called urban adventurers and Greenpeace activists.
King-Thompson, then 19, admitted he was aware of the injunction but “just did it anyway”.
His parents have said he did not understand the consequences, which they believe were disproportionate.
“He climbed a building… he should have had community service,” said his mother Hilary King-Thompson, 54, after hugging her son as he emerged through the prison gates.
“They just wanted George to be an example to everybody else — a deterrent,” added Dad Clive Thompson, 58.
Lawyers for the two firms declined to comment.
– ‘Mr Shard’ –
Despite breaching civil law and having no prior convictions, King-Thompson was sent to Pentonville in north London, which holds hardened criminals.
He said he regularly saw stabbings and attempted suicides there as well as cockroaches, rats and mice.
But he called it “a fascinating experience”.
“It’s a tough place but you can never let it get (you) down,” he added, noting he began work on a book to be released later this year.
“I never let myself feel sorry for myself. I just adapted to my environment and got on with it.”
He said other inmates “saw the humorous side” of his conviction. They nicknamed him “Mr Shard” and joked that he should climb his way out of jail, he added.
His mother said she hoped his climbing career could take now take a different route but he said: “I would never let adversity extinguish my spirit.
“I plan to shock the world again in 2020.”