A ‘stop the war’ artwork by the elusive artist Banksy has led to the arrest of two men who took it down on suspicion of the theft. The sign, placed in Peckham southeast London is said to worth up to £500,000 was ‘removed’ hours after it was confirmed online by Banksy.
The Metropolitan police said they had deployed detectives to investigate after a council in south-east London asked them to help find the stolen artwork. The piece – a red stop sign with three military drones on it – appeared on the corner of Commercial Way, Peckham, on Friday.
However, footage on social media showed two men with a bolt cutter appearing shortly afterwards to carry out a brazen removal of the graffiti art, making no attempt to hide their identities as witnesses filmed them.
The Met said earlier in the day: “We have received a report of theft and inquiries are ongoing. This incident is being investigated by officers from the Met’s central south CID.”
Later they said that a man, arrested on suspicion of theft and criminal damage, remained in custody and investigations were ongoing.
It also emerged that the council had already replaced the road sign to avoid potential traffic accidents at the location which is close to a funeral director and suggests a critique of the ongoing Israel/Palestinian war that has so far claimed thousands of lives.
A similar drone art is said to have appeared at Walled Off hotel in Bethlehem in 2017, which the artist said had “the worst view of any hotel in the world” – in a reference to Israel’s controversial wall in the West Bank.
The artist has installed other pieces this year including Valentine’s Day Mascara, a mural weighing 3.8 tonnes that appeared on the side of a house in Margate, Kent.
It 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 central London, where it can be viewed for free.
A second suspect was arrested on Sunday in the alleged theft according to Met police public statement.