Monday 16 September 2019 11:44 am

Police bail pensioner as hunt for Blenheim Palace's stolen gold toilet continues

Police investigating the theft of a solid gold toilet from Blenheim Palace have released a 66-year-old man on bail.

The pensioner was arrested in connection with the incident after burglars ripped the £4.8m artwork out of a wood-panelled room in the early hours of Saturday morning.

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Meanwhile the artist who created the 18-carat bathroom throne has said he is “praying” the burglary turns out merely to be a prank.

Blenheim Palace chief executive Dominic Hare told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan would be “mortified” at claims he had participated in the theft as part of a Banksy-style prank.

“He would be mortified by that suggestion and has said so. That simply hasn’t happened here,” Hare said.

A fountain sprays in the grounds of Blenheim Palace, Winston Churchill's birthplace
A fountain in the grounds of Blenheim Palace, Winston Churchill’s birthplace (Getty)

“But he is right. He feels like he is in a heist movie and I think it took him quite a few minutes to comprehend that this had actually happened.

“He was mortified, shocked, praying that it was a prank and that it would come back. Now he’s just reflecting, I think.”

Some had reacted to Saturday’s incident by speculating that it was a joke in the vein of Banksy’s Girl With Red Balloon artwork, which was sold for £1m at Sotheby’s last year before being shredded in its frame.

But Thames Valley Police said they have bolstered security at Blenheim, the birthplace of Winston Churchill, as they continue searching.

“We are still actively searching for the stolen piece of artwork and there will be a continued police presence in and around the palace while this search continues,” detective inspector Jess Milne said.

Police said a gang used at least two vehicles in the burglary, to which police were called at 4./57am on Saturday morning.

“Investigations are continuing and it is our main priority to locate the stolen item and the offenders involved,” Milne added.

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“You always take a risk in showing art. The safest thing to do with art, I suppose, is to put it in a strongroom and lock the door. We think that risk is worth taking,” Hare told Today.

“We have no incidents of this type in living memory – but the truth is, this has happened and we are now challenged to look hard at ourselves and improve again.”

Main image credit: Getty