LONDON — The best heist movies usually involve a ton of cash that mysteriously goes missing from a safe. But what to make of a solid gold toilet that disappears from a bathroom?
The golden throne, which was part of an art exhibit, was stolen early Saturday from the magnificent home in England where British wartime leader Winston Churchill was born.
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Valued at roughly 1 million pounds ($1.25 million), the toilet was the work of Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan. It had been installed only two days earlier at Blenheim Palace, the home of the Duke of Marlborough, after previously being displayed at the Guggenheim Museum in New York.
Police said the toilet was taken early Saturday by thieves who used at least two vehicles. Because it had been connected to the palace’s plumbing system, police said the toilet’s removal caused “significant damage and flooding” to the building, a UNESCO World Heritage site filled with valuable art and furniture.
A 66-year-old man was arrested in the case, but he has not been identified or charged.
Inspector Richard Nicholls from Thames Valley Police said police believe the thieves left the spacious property about 4:50 a.m. and that the toilet was the only item taken. Closed circuit TV footage is being studied in the investigation.
Prior to the theft, visitors to the Cattelan exhibition could book a three-minute appointment to use the toilet. This had proved popular when it was on display at the Guggenheim.
The artist intended the golden toilet to be a pointed satire about excessive wealth. Cattelan has previously said: “Whatever you eat, a $200 lunch or a $2 hot dog, the results are the same, toilet-wise.”
Saturday’s theft also comes after Edward Spencer-Churchill, half-brother of the Duke of Marlborough, told The Times newspaper that the golden toilet would not be very easy to steal since it was connected to the palace’s plumbing.
“So no, I don’t plan to be guarding it,” he said.
Thames Valley Police Detective Inspector Jess Milne said: “The artwork has not been recovered at this time but we are conducting a thorough investigation to find it and bring those responsible to justice.”
Blenheim Palace said officials are “saddened” by the theft but “relieved no one was hurt.”
The building was closed to the public Saturday but the palace said normal operations will resume Sunday.
The stately home in Oxfordshire, 65 miles (105 kilometres) west of London, is popular with visitors and is occasionally used for special events including fashion shows and art exhibits.
With file from The Associated Press