Second man arrested over theft of Banksy artwork from London street corner

A second man suspected of stealing an artwork by elusive street artist Banksy from a London street corner has been arrested, UK police said on Sunday.

The man, aged in his 40s, was arrested on suspicion of theft and criminal damage, London’s Metropolitan Police Service said. 

He remains in police custody.

Another man, in his 20s, was arrested earlier on Saturday and put in custody on suspicion of theft and criminal damage, the Metropolitan Police said.

AFP said he had since been released on bail until a date in mid-March. 

The artwork, a stop sign adorned with graffiti stencils of three military drones, was taken in the middle of the day on Friday, less than an hour after Banksy posted a photo of the work on his Instagram page.

Many of the artist’s Instagram followers interpreted the work as calling for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.

A man with bolt cutters was snapped by photographers and recorded on video climbing up on a Lime rental bike to remove the sign from a post on a street corner in the Peckham area of south London, while another man steadied the bike.

The man who cut the sign free then ran off with it in his hand.

A man stands on a bike, held by another man, as he unscrews a stop sign that had been used as a canvas by Banksy

The artwork was taken in the middle of the day in London, in front of shocked onlookers.(AP: Aaron Chown)

A witness, who only wanted to be called Alex, told the PA news agency that the small crowd of people that had shown up to view the work stood around watching in awe as the scene unfolded.

“I went there thinking ‘people want that’ — I wanted to see it before something happened to it,” he said.

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

“We were all a bit bemused; there was some honking of car horns.”

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Jasmine Ali, the deputy leader of the local borough council, called for the piece to be returned.

“It should not have been removed, and we’d like it back so everyone in the community can enjoy Banksy’s brilliant work,” she said.

The stop sign was replaced.

Artist’s work has sold for millions

It is not the first time a Banksy installation has become a target for thieves.

The artist, who remains anonymous, is known for his thought-provoking and satirical art, some of which has sold for tens of millions of dollars.

Last year, a group of people in Ukraine tried to steal a Banksy mural on the side of a scorched building depicting a woman in a gas mask and dressing gown holding a fire extinguisher.

Several murals have also been destroyed by British councils and companies.

In February, council officers removed a Valentine’s Day artwork, which critics said highlighted violence against women, on the grounds of safety. 

In March, builders in Kent said they “felt sick” after learning a mural on a 500-year-old farmhouse they had just destroyed was a Banksy.


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