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Officers on patrol went to see Blaine.

Byline: CAROLINE GAMMELL

TEN police officers were facing disciplinary action last night after they abandoned their street patrol to go and watch the American illusionist David Blaine.

The probationers were supposed to be on night duty in Newham,east London, when they sneaked off to see the magician in his 44-day starvation bid.

Their shift ran from 10pm to 6 am but -still dressed in full uniform -they left their patch at 4 am to find Blaine in his suspended glass box next to London's Tower Bridge.

The men should have been covering the East Ham and Stratford area and were called into line by the Metropolitan Police.

A spokesman for Scotland Yard said: ``We are disappointed that they were not patrolling the streets of Newham.

``As part of our inquiry, we will be considering disciplinary action.''

The officers were carrying out anti-robbery patrols as part of the Met Police Safety on the Streets policy.

The high-profile two-week campaign -which started on September 28 -was designed to show a strong police presence around London.

But the men, who were being supervised by a police constable specialising in street duties, went astray on the morning of October 9.

Newham Borough superintendent Roger Smalley said: ``We are totally committed to providing the people of Newham with the type of professional service that they expect from us.

``This incident was clearly unacceptable and appropriate action will be taken.''

Throughout the two-week safety campaign,officers arrested 42 people in the Newham area, something described by the police spokesman as ``pretty impressive''.

But, referring to the illicit Blaine visit,he said: ``It was a silly thing to do really as they should not have been there.

``They were young inexperienced officers who have learnt their lesson.''

With two days to go before completing his challenge,Blaine was battling with palpitations and breathing difficulties yesterday.

A spokesman for the magician described the 30-year-old as ``not in the best of health''.

The illusionist appears to have remained in his glass box since he entered the box on September 5.

Now sporting a straggly beard and wild hair, Blaine spent the early morning huddled up against the cold.

Over the past 42 days he has spent time writing his diary, sleeping and waving to the almost-constant crowds below.

Sky One, which has been filming Blaine's progress, said an estimated 250,000 people have visited the site.

He is expected to be released from his glass cell at 9.30pm tomorrow.

CAPTION(S):

David Blaine in his box yesterday, suspended near Tower Bridge; Picture: KIRSTY WIGGLESWORTH
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Oct 18, 2003
Words:427
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