Blenheim Palace gold toilet theft 'like heist movie'

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Media caption,

Solid gold toilet stolen in Blenheim Palace heist

The theft of a solid gold toilet from Blenheim Palace has echoes of "a heist movie", the stately home's chief executive has said.

Dominic Hare said artist Maurizio Cattelan was "mortified" by the theft from the stately home in Oxfordshire.

Valued at $6m (£4.8m), the artwork has not been found since Saturday's early-morning raid at Blenheim - the home of the Duke of Marlborough.

A 66-year-old man who was arrested on Saturday has been released on bail.

Mr Hare told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "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."

The fully working toilet - entitled America - went on show at the 18th Century palace on Thursday as part of an exhibition by the Italian artist.

Visitors had been invited to book three-minute slots to use the throne for its intended purpose.

Police believe a gang of thieves using at least two vehicles was responsible for the theft.

Image source, Blenheim Palace
Image caption,
Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan says he hopes the theft is a "kind of Robin Hood-inspired action"

In an email to the New York Times, Cattelan said: "'America' was the 1% for the 99%, and I hope it still is.

"I want to be positive and think the robbery is a kind of Robin Hood-inspired action.

"I promise I have an alibi for the night."

Last month Edward Spencer-Churchill - half-brother of the Duke of Marlborough - said the toilet would not "be the easiest thing to nick".

The burglary caused "significant damage and flooding" because the toilet was plumbed into the building, police said.

Mr Hare said it was the "first theft of this type in living memory" from the stately home - the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill - adding it had "a sophisticated security system".

"But the truth is, this has happened and we are now challenged to look hard at ourselves and improve again," he said.

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Blenheim Palace, a World Heritage Site, was shut on Saturday after the burglary but reopened on Sunday.

Mr Hare said the artwork - famously offered to US President Donald Trump in 2017 - was a "comment on the American dream".

"[It's] the idea of something that's incredibly precious and elite being made accessible, potentially to everybody, as we all need to go when we need to go," he said.

"And it's ironic, really, that two days after this was made accessible, it was snatched away."

Mr Hare said it was "not out of the question [the toilet] would be melted down" by the thieves.

Police have urged anyone with information to contact them.

Det Insp Jess Milne said: "Investigations are continuing and it is our main priority to locate the stolen item and the offenders involved."

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