Two suspects thought to have taken part late last week in the theft of a new Banksy work in the South London neighborhood of Peckham have been taken into custody by London police, according to the Associated Press.
The work, a stop sign decorated with what appears to be a trio of military drones, was stolen just one hour after the street artist posted an image of the work to Instagram on December 22.
A man referred to only as Alex told the Sun that two people, using a Lime bicycle as a makeshift ladder, removed the street sign with bolt cutters after one of the two “bashed it with his hands” in a failed attempt to remove the sign from its post.
“I opened Instagram and I saw it was posted four minutes before and I was about to go on my lunch break,” Alex told the Sun. “There were about two people there when I got there. We were all sort of admiring it and taking pictures.”
The alleged crooks stole the work at around 12:30 p.m., in full view of the crowd that had gathered to admire the mysterious Banksy’s newest work. Images of the two men, unmasked and in plain view, were posted to the tabloid’s website.
The first arrest came the following day when London’s Metropolitan police took a man into custody on suspicion of theft and criminal damage. The second arrest was made on Sunday.
While Banksy himself never explains the art he installs under the cover of night, much of what his work has an overt antiwar message. Some of the artist’s more than 12 million Instagram followers have viewed the drone-emblazoned stop sign as a call for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza.
Banksy and his artwork often make headlines. Earlier this year, his possible identity was revealed in a recently uncovered, decades-old interview on the BBC, and there has been news coverage about his artworks being removed, demolished, or restored throughout 2023.