Thousands of missing artworks which were intended as a gift to residents of a London borough have been returned to the artist following a police appeal.
The Metropolitan Police launched an investigation into the theft of the prints by Hackney-based artist Stik, which were meant to be distributed to every household in the London borough.
The street artist, who is known for painting large stick figures, produced 100,000 copies of a 50cm x 50cm poster of one of his 2016 works called Holding Hands.
Working with Hackney Council, his prints were created to celebrate the installation of the Holding Hands sculpture in Hoxton Square and were to be distributed to local residents via the monthly issue of the council-issued Hackney Today newspaper.
But a large number of resident never received a copy, and it was discovered batches of the print were for sale online.
The matter was reported to the police who launched an investigation and, with support of Stik, issued an appeal on October 26 urging the safe return of the prints.
Police said around 4,000 prints have since been returned to the artist, on top of 1,000 that had already been returned prior to the appeal.
Stik said: “Holding Hands shows two people looking in opposite directions yet holding hands in a symbol of universal love and solidarity.
“The fact that so many prints were returned to the people of Hackney only amplifies its meaning.”
Detective constable James Readman said: “It is really encouraging that the public have listened to our appeal and done the right thing by returning a large proportion of the prints.
“Hopefully, they were struck by the fact that Stik was doing something really nice for his fellow Hackney residents – funded out of his own pocket – because he wanted to bring a smile to people’s faces, during what has been an incredibly difficult year for most.
“Unfortunately, some individuals saw an opportunity to make money and took it.
“But we are pleased with the response and understand Stik has begun the process of distributing the prints to the rightful recipients.”