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Second man arrested over alleged theft of Banksy artwork

The new street art, a traffic stop sign covered with three aircraft resembling military drones, was revealed in Peckham at midday on Friday

A second man has been arrested on suspicion of theft and criminal damage after the removal of a Banksy artwork in south-east London, the Metropolitan Police said.

The new 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.

Banksy confirmed it was genuine by posting a photo on social media but witnesses saw the artwork being removed by a man with bolt cutters less than an hour later.

On Saturday, a man in his 20s was arrested on suspicion of theft and criminal damage and later released on bail as the force conducts further inquiries, the Metropolitan police said.

A man in his 40s was arrested on the same charges on Sunday and remains in police custody.

Photos from the scene show a man wearing a black jacket holding a Lime bike steady while another man wearing a black and red jacket balances on its saddle and handle bars so he could cut the sign free using bolt cutters.

A regular stop sign has since been installed to avoid endangering road users at the intersection, police confirmed.

A spokesperson from the force added: “This incident is currently being investigated by officers from the Met’s central south CID.

“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.”

A witness to the sign being removed said onlookers “watched in awe” as a man “bashed it with his hands”.

He said the man climbed onto the bike and first tried to “hit it with his hands” before leaving the scene and returning shortly after with bolt cutters.

Alex, 26, said: “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.”

While currently unconfirmed, the artwork is believed to be a reference to Israel’s ongoing war against Hamas.

Banksy shared the work on social media without providing any explanation, but the depiction of three aircraft on a stop sign has been interpreted as calling for a ceasefire in Gaza

The street artist has previously referenced the Israel-Hamas war with provocative political pieces.

In 2015, he stencilled graffiti onto concrete rubble in Gaza and uploaded photographs of the work to his official website.

In one caption of a piece depicting a sad, crouching figure, he wrote: “Bomb damage, Gaza City.”

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

Ms Ali said in a statement: “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.”

It is understood that Banksy, who has previously destroyed his own works in public stunts, is not behind the removal of the artwork.

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