Duane Oppenheimer, 59 1/2, of Newmarket was charged with mischief and unlawful excavation on Wednesday evening, after cleaning staff at Upper Canada Mall discovered a large rectangular crack in a utility closet floor. The crack turned out to be a hatch leading to Oppenheimer’s tunnel, a 200-metre subterranean passageway that extended under the mall’s south parking lot and continued below Davis Drive into an adjacent subdivision where it emerged inside the Oppenheimers’ garage.
Andrea Smyrna, a next-door neighbour, defended the tunnel, explaining it had been in use for nearly two years and had been a closely-guarded secret among the Oppenheimers’ friends and neighbours. “That tunnel made it a breeze to get to the mall without a car or risking life and limb crossing Davis Drive during rush hour.”, Smyrna explained. “I have no idea how they built it or where they put the dirt, but the neighbourhood sure liked that tunnel.”
Oppenheimer, a recently retired steelworker, was a regular fixture at Upper Canada Mall. “You’d always find him at his favourite table in the food court knocking back coffee with his buddies — Duane really likes the mall” added Smyrna.
After climbing down the hatchway to investigate, 4 police officers and mall security staff found a surprisingly well-built structure with adequate support beams and ventilation. A number of Zellers shopping carts were found at both ends of the tunnel, along with emergency instructions, Oppenheimer’s cell number and a supply of candles. “They seem to have thought of just about everything, except the law”, said Constable Stanley Sharp. ”
Mall officials are debating whether to fill in the tunnel or turn it into a pedestrian-friendly entrance.