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Second man arrested following alleged theft of Banksy artwork in Peckham

Sign painted with artwork by the mysterious street artist was removed in front of witnesses just hours after being unveiled

Roisin O'Connor
Sunday 24 December 2023 14:08 GMT
Banksy’s new art work on London street corner removed minutes after unveiling

A second man has been arrested on suspicion of theft and criminal damage after a brand new Banksy artwork was removed from a pole in south-east London.

The piece of street art – a traffic stop sign covered with three aircraft resembling military drones – was revealed at the intersection of Southampton Way and Commercial Way in Peckham at midday on Friday (22 December).

Witnesses later saw the sign being removed by a man with bolt cutters less than an hour after the enigmatic street artist confirmed it was genuine by posting a photo on social media.

Photos from the scene show a man wearing a red and black jacket using a Lime hire bicycle to prop himself up, with one foot on the saddle and the other on the handle bars, while another man holds the bike steady against the pole.

A further image shows the man in red and black running in front of a white van with the stop sign after managing to remove it, before disappearing around the corner.

On Saturday (23 December), a man in his twenties was arrested on suspicion of theft and criminal damage and later released on bail as the force conducts further inquiries until a date in mid-March.

A man in his forties was arrested on the same charges on Sunday (24 December) and remains in police custody.

A regular stop sign has since been installed to avoid endangering road users at the intersection, police confirmed.

A person removes a piece of art work by Banksy (Aaron Chown/PA)

A spokesperson added: “This incident is currently being investigated by officers from the Met’s central south CID.

“We are aware of footage being shared which shows the sign being removed. Anyone who may have information about the incident or the whereabouts of the sign is asked to call police.”

Banksy has yet to confirm the meaning behind his new artwork, but the image of the aircraft has been interpreted as a message in support of a ceasefire in Gaza, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine.

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 witness to the sign being removed said onlookers “watched in awe” as a man “bashed it with his hands” before leaving the scene and returning shortly after with bolt cutters.

“We said, ‘What are you doing?’ but no-one really knew what to do, we sort of just watched it happen,” Alex, 26, said.

“We were all a bit bemused, there was some honking of car horns. He ripped it off and ran across the road and ran away. He said nothing. He didn’t seem to care that much about the art itself.”

Additional reporting by Press Association.

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