Police investigating alleged theft after Banksy street artwork removed in Peckham

A piece of artwork by Banksy, which shows what looks like three drones on a traffic stop sign, was removed in Peckham Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

An investigation is underway into the alleged theft of a Banksy installation in south-east London.

The piece of street art – a traffic stop sign covered with three aircraft resembling military drones – was revealed at the intersection of Southampton Way and Commercial Way in Peckham at midday on Friday.

Less than an hour after Banksy confirmed it was genuine by posting a photo of it on social media, witnesses saw the artwork being removed by a man with bolt cutters.

The Metropolitan Police said it has received a report of theft and the “incident is currently being investigated by officers”, but no arrests have been made at this stage.

The stop sign has since been replaced to avoid endangering road users, police confirmed.

A spokesperson added: “We are aware of footage being shared which shows the sign being removed.

“Anyone who may have information about the incident or the whereabouts of the sign is asked to call police.”

The street artist offered no explanation for his work, but it appears to be a reference to Israel's war in Gaza. Credit: @Banksy/Instagram

The deputy leader of Southwark Council, Jasmine Ali, has since called for the piece to be returned so “everyone in the community can enjoy Banksy’s brilliant work”.

In a statement, Ms Ali said: “Of course Banksy picked Peckham, it’s already on the map when it comes to art and is a hotbed for creativity.

“It should not have been removed and we’d like it back so everyone in the community can enjoy Banksy’s brilliant work.

“We have reported the removal of our sign to the police to help get it back.”

While the artist didn't provide any explanation on his Instagram page, the work has been interpreted as calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.

A man who witnessed the removal of the artwork said onlookers “watched in awe” as a man “bashed it with his hands”.

To get to the installation, the witness, who wanted to be referred to only as Alex, rode a Lime bike which was then used by a man who removed the art from the south London street.

He said the man stood on the Lime bike and first attempted to “hit it with his hands” before leaving and returning with bolt cutters.

Alex, 26, recalled: “We said, ‘What are you doing?’ but no-one really knew what to do, we sort of just watched it happen.

“We were all a bit bemused, there was some honking of car horns. He ripped it off and ran across the road and ran away.

“He said nothing. He didn’t seem to care that much about the art itself.”

A man is shown running off with the 'stop sign'. Credit: PA

It is understood that Banksy is not behind the removal and this is not the first time the artist’s work has been removed shortly after its installation.

A mural weighing 3.8 tonnes called Valentine’s Day Mascara appeared on the side of a house in Margate, Kent, on Valentine’s Day this year and was dismantled some hours later after Banksy had shared a series of photos of it online.

The mural 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, the mural was placed in the foyer of The Art Of Banksy exhibition in Regent Street, central London, where it can be viewed for free.

The exhibition features pieces including Girl With Balloon, Flower Thrower and Rude Copper and also focuses on Banksy’s Dismaland, The Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem and recent works acknowledging the ongoing war in Ukraine.

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