Suspect arrested in brazen theft of Banksy stop sign
A man suspected of stealing a Banksy piece featuring three military drones on a stop sign — less than an hour after the elusive artist unveiled it — was arrested Saturday in London.
A man in his 20s was taken into custody on suspicion of theft and criminal damage, the Metropolitan police said.
He will remain in custody as investigations are ongoing, authorities added.
The unidentified man and a cohort were pictured Friday afternoon using bolt cutters to yank the anti-war artwork off a traffic post in the Peckham district less than an hour after the piece had been uncovered.
One of the men was spotted balancing on top of a rented bike so he could reach the sign, while the other man held the bike still for him.
The man who cut the sign free quickly ran off with it in his hand as shocked onlookers shouted at the pair to stop.
The incident unfolded just after the anonymous graffiti artist disclosed the location of his latest work with photos of it on Instagram around 12.30 pm local time.
A witness, only identified as Alex, told the Evening Standard there were a handful of people “sort of admiring it and taking pictures” when the thieves approached.
“This guy comes up and grabs it, we watched in awe as he bashed it. He put the Lime bike under the sign, stood on the Lime bike and tried to hit the sign, he hit it with his hands and it wasn’t going anywhere,” he said.
“He fell off the Lime bike at one point. He disappeared and went away and about two minutes later he reappeared with bolt cutters and just sort of tried and tried and tried while everyone was watching.”
The onlooker added: “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.”
Jasmine Ali, 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,” Ali said.
Social media users speculated that the red STOP sign artwork was tied to the Israel-Palestine conflict amid calls for a ceasefire in Gaza.
The stop sign has since been replaced.
Banksy’s art work can command top dollar on the resale market, with a semi-shredded piece fetching some $25 million at auction in 2018.