Thieves use street sign to break into art gallery and seize prints by Banksy

Police are searching for a man and woman who smashed their way into an art gallery in London and stole prints by the street artist Banksy worth more than £16,000.

The casually dressed pair used a street sign to break a window and force their way into Art Republic in New Compton Street. CCTV cameras caught the man entering the shop and grabbing two prints while the woman stayed in the street as a look-out. They then made off on foot.

They stole two limited-edition prints, both numbered and signed by the artist, which were mounted in glass frames and measured about 3ft by 4ft. The first print, a brightly coloured image of military helicopters, some adorned with a pink bow, and titled Happy Choppers, was on sale for £8,750.

The second, known as Nola (Grey Rain), showing a young girl sheltering under an umbrella from which rain is falling, was on sale for £7,700.

It is not the first time Banksy prints have been targeted by thieves. Ten works worth about £10,000 were stolen from a branch of Art Republic in Brighton in 2007.

Calling upon the Metropolitan Police for assistance may amuse the secretive artist, whose graffiti, street art and prints are popular across the world and fetch huge prices – the back cover of his book Wall And Piece includes a quote from a Met spokesman saying: "There's no way you're going to get a quote from us to use on your book cover."