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Met Police arrest man on suspicion of stealing Banksy road sign artwork in broad daylight

Two men were caught on camera stealing the installation less than one hour after street artist claimed ownership

Jacob Stolworthy
Sunday 24 December 2023 08:09 GMT
Banksy’s new art work on London street corner removed minutes after unveiling

A man has been arrested on suspicion of stealing a new Banksy artwork in broad daylight, the Metropolitan Police has announced.

The robbery of the new installation which was committed in front of onlookers, occurred hours after the enigmatic street artist claimed ownership of the work on social media.

On Saturday (23 December), the force said that a man suspected of theft and criminal damage remains in custody.

Banksy’s latest artwork, which saw him add three military drones to a “stop” road sign, appeared in south London, Peckham on Friday (22 December), and has been priced by a gallery owner at £50,000.

Less than one hour after Banksy shared an image of the piece on his social media pages, two men with bolt cutters stole the piece of art, with one standing on the seat of a Lime Bike to reach it.

The Met said on Saturday (23 December): “We have received a report of theft and enquiries are ongoing. This incident is currently being investigated by officers from the Met’s central south CID. There has been no arrest at this stage.”

A spokesperson added to the BBC: “We are aware of footage being shared which shows the sign being removed.”

While unconfirmed, it is believed Banksy created the artwork in support of a ceasefire in Gaza amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestinian militant group Hamas.

Speaking after the theft, art gallery owner John Brandler told the BBC: “I think if it came up at auction it would be worth £250,000 to £500,000. It could easily be higher. The media attention has made it more valuable.”

The deputy Leader of Southwark Council, Jasmine Ali, said the artwork “should not have been removed”, adding: “We’d like it back so everyone in the community can enjoy Banksy’s brilliant work.”

A man removes a piece of art by Banksy at the intersection of Southampton Way and Commercial Way in Peckham (Aaron Chown/PA)

A man who witnessed the removal of the artwork said onlookers “watched in awe” as a man “bashed it with his hands”.

Banksy has installed some other pieces this year, including Valentine’s Day Mascara, a mural weighing 3.8 tonnes, which appeared on the side of a house in Margate, Kent, on Valentine’s Day.

The mural depicted a 1950s’ housewife with a swollen eye and missing tooth, wearing an apron and yellow washing-up gloves, and throwing a man into a chest freezer.

In September, it was placed in the foyer of The Art of Banksy exhibition in Regent Street, central London, where it can be viewed for free.

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