14.9.19

Burglars steal solid gold TOILET worth £5 MILLION in raid on Blenheim Palace 2 days after the 18-carat toilet went on display.

A solid 18-carat gold toilet, worth £5 million, was stolen from Blenheim Palace in the early hours of this morning and remains missing.
The golden lavatory went on display two days ago and was designed by controversial Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan. It was installed as part of a new exhibition at the Oxfordshire palace, the birthplace of former Prime Minister Winston Churchill in November 1874. Visitors to Blenheim Palace were able to use the five million-pound toilet and were allocated a strict three-minute time slot. Thames Valley Police confirmed the toilet was stolen and a 66-year-old man has been arrested in connection with the theft and remains in police custody. 
Dominic Hare, chief executive officer of Blenheim Palace, told the BBC the toilet is valued at about six million dollars and was a 'very precious piece'.When asked if the artist had been contacted, he said: 'There were some slightly nervous calls at 6am but we have spoken to the artist and Lord Edward at the art foundation, and many of the trustees and they have been magnificent in their support.' Mr Hare added: 'We have a sophisticated security set-up here and we have had no loss of this kind in living memory, which probably reflects the quality of that operation.' He was also asked whether a party, which took place at the palace on Friday night, could have created an opportunity for the theft. In response, he said: 'We have been asked not to comment on the investigation. But there was a clear time separation between those things.' Detective Inspector Jess Milne said: 'The piece of art that has been stolen is a high-value toilet made out of gold that was on display at the palace.' 
Inspector Richard Nicholls added: 'We are aware they left about 4.50am this morning. CCTV is one of the aspects we are looking on and that will come out in due course.' When asked if he believed a reception party held on the same night of the exhibition's launch could be connected, Insp Nicholls said: 'I am not aware of the reception party personally, but that would form part of our inquiries in order to ascertain events leading up to the item being stolen.' Insp Nicholls said he was only aware of the toilet being stolen and could not comment as to how the property was accessed. The fully-functioning solid gold toilet was created by Cattelan for the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, where more than 100,000 people queued to use the security-guarded loo. Now, after more than 20 years, the exhibition marks Cattelan's first solo show in Britain. 
To celebrate this, his most controversial works have been placed in and around the Palace in Oxfordshire to engage and contrast with its unique history. Aside from the toilet, the pieces also include his famous taxidermy horse 'Novecento' suspended from the ceiling of one of the portrait rooms, a model of a schoolboy version of Adolf Hitler on his knees praying and a realistic model of Pope John Paul II being hit by a meteorite. The theft of the golden lavatory comes after the Duke of Marlborough's half-brother, Edward Spencer-Churchill, said last month it wouldn't be 'the easiest thing to nick'.Mr. Spencer-Churchill said: 'Firstly, it's plumbed in and secondly, a potential thief will have no idea who last used the toilet or what they ate.'So no, I don't plan to be guarding it.'
Thames Valley Police said the offenders broke into the palace overnight and left the scene at about 4.50am. There were no injuries during the burglary. Detective Inspector Jess Milne said: 'Due to the toilet being plumbed into the building, this has caused significant damage and flooding.' Detective Inspector Milne added: 'We believe group offenders used at least two vehicles during the offense.' 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.
She continued: 'Residents will see an increased police presence in the area while officers and staff carry out inquiries. ''I am appealing to anyone who saw or heard anything suspicious in the area to contact police.'You can call us on 101, quoting URN 273 (14/9), visit our website or visit a police station.' Thames Valley Police said they received a report of the burglary at Blenheim Palace at 4.57am. The golden toilet had proved popular at the Guggenheim and has been described by critics as a pointed satire against the excesses of wealth. The sculpture hit the headlines last year after it was offered to US President Donald Trump by the chief curator of the Guggenheim museum in New York, it's former home. Cattelan has previously said: 'Whatever you eat, a two-hundred-dollar lunch or a two-dollar hot dog, the results are the same, toilet-wise.' More than 100,000 people made use of its 'participatory nature' at the Fifth Avenue museum between 2016 and 2017, making available to the public 'an extravagant luxury product seemingly intended for the 1%,' said the Guggenheim website. 
Blenheim Palace chief executive Dominic Hare has urged anyone with any information to contact police. He said: 'We are saddened by this extraordinary event, but also relieved no-one was hurt.' We are very grateful to our staff and to Thames Valley Police for their rapid and brave reactions.' We knew there was huge interest in the Maurizio Cattelan contemporary art exhibition, with many sets to come and enjoy the installations.' It's, therefore, a great shame an item so precious has been taken, but we still have so many fascinating treasures in the palace and the remaining items of the exhibition to share.'The investigation continues, but it will be business as usual from tomorrow, so visitors can continue to come and experience all we have to offer.'If anyone knows or saw anything suspicious in connection with the event that may help us secure its return please contact Thames Valley Police.'
On Twitter, Blenheim Palace announced that it would be closed today and said: 'Due to an unforeseen incident at the Palace we are closed until lunchtime, the Park will remain open. Apologies for any inconvenience.' A site design company for the Palace, EventSiteDesign, tweeted this morning: 'We've had some drama overnight which I won't elaborate on just yet but it has meant we need to redirect our contractor traffic for the day.'

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