Suspect Detained Day After Taking Bolt Cutters to Street Sign “Stop the War” Artwork
London police have arrested a man in connection with the daring broad-daylight theft of a brand new mural by infamous street artist Banksy. The arrest comes just one day after the brazen theft in south London.
The artwork, titled “Stop the War,” depicted three drones hovering above a battered stop sign. It was installed on a residential street corner in Peckham in the early hours of December 23rd.
New Anti-War Piece Vanishes Within 60 Minutes
Banksy verified the mural as an original piece on his Instagram account around 11 a.m. However, within an hour the stop sign itself had been cut down and removed by two men wielding bolt cutters and loaded into a van idling nearby.
|Location of Mural
|Corner of Percy Road and Rye Lane, Peckham, South London
|Overnight between Dec 22nd-23rd
|Around noon on December 23rd, <60 mins after Banksy confirmed authenticity
|£50,000 (~$60,000 USD)
The brazen daytime theft was captured on video and subsequently shared widely on social media platforms.
In the videos, two men can be seen walking up to the sign, with one pulling out bold cutters hidden under his jacket. As pedestrians watched in surprise, the men swiftly cut through the metal post and lay the large piece flat to carry back to their vehicle.
Police indicated that the getaway van made off in the direction of the nearby A2 highway. As of Sunday morning, the severed metal post still lay on the sidewalk at the site of the artwork.
War, Refugees Central Theme in Banksy’s Latest Work
Banksy’s publicist confirmed to media outlets that the elusive artist created the mural specifically to bring attention to the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
The stop sign’s battered and bullet-ridden appearance seems intended to mirror the devastation caused by nearly a year of intense warfare. Meanwhile, the drones hovering ominously above echo Russia’s recent reliance on Iranian-supplied drones in attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure and civilians.
This meaning was not lost on locals, many still reeling from the news just days before that over 100 high-rise apartment buildings in the nearby city of Dnipro, Ukraine had been destroyed by Russian missiles on December 23rd. At least 41 residents including 6 children were killed in one of the deadliest attacks of the war.
“It really felt like Banksy captured the horror of what Ukrainians are facing with the drones and attacks on civilians,” said London resident Ellie Cumbo. “To see it disappear so quickly after it appeared was incredibly disappointing.”
References to refugees can also be seen in the artwork, with a stroller and doll lying abandoned underneath the riddled sign post. Millions of Ukrainians including young families have fled their country since the Russian invasion began in February 2022. Over 150,000 Ukranian refugees have resettled in the United Kingdom.
Locals Express Outrage, Council Vows Legal Action
Residents and local officials widely condemned the theft. Southwark Council indicated they are working closely with London’s Metropolitan Police on locating the artwork. They had intended to remove the piece to prevent any damage or theft, and discuss a more permanent public display.
The local Member of Parliament, Harriet Harman, tweeted that the council would “take legal action against the theft.”
“This is obviously going to huge community interest. We need to get it back in the community where we can all see it,” she added.
Suspect Apprehended Less Than 24 Hours Later
In a surprise Sunday morning development, London’s Metropolitan Police announced that a suspect had been arrested in connection with the theft.
Few details were immediately available, but police indicated the arrest came following an investigation overnight.
The individual has not been named publicly. Officials have also not indicated whether the stolen stop sign itself or other Banksy works were recovered during the arrest operation.
Banksy’s Previous South London Work Also Targeted
This isn’t the secretive street artist’s first artwork placed South of the River Thames to disappear under mysterious circumstances.
In 2020, residents in a Croydon neighborhood were dismayed to find a mural that appeared on the side of a family home had been mysteriously removed from the brick wall overnight.
The large-scale piece depicted a young girl playfully reaching for bubble floating amid a circle of daisies. Instead of depicting a wand to blow the bubble though, the girl extended a hand grenade pin. Banksy named this mural “Girl with a Bomb.”
At the time of the Croydon mural’s disappearance, the homeowner indicated she had no intention of removing the art and was “completely devastated,” hoping it would eventually resurface. There were indications that the rendering had instead been chiseled off the wall in strips under cover of darkness.
Unlike the lost Croydon artwork though, Banksy’s latest gift to South London was installed in plain sight on a public street corner. Locals and fans globally wait anxiously for any further word on whether the iconic and poignant “Stop the War” sign will reemerge.
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