Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Stop thief... whoever you are

One of our readers (thanks D) has pointed us to the recently published finale of the theft alluded to in Dr No. The portrait of the Duke of Wellington by Goya seen in the movie was stolen from the National Art Gallery in London and eventually recovered. Kempton Bunton, a 61-year-old unemployed bus driver, confessed to the crime and spent three months in jail although he was eventually found not guilty of nicking the painting only of stealing the frame. It now appears that it was in fact his son John who did the deed. Friday’s Guardian tells all:

“Just before dawn on Monday 21 August 1961, John Bunton – a temporary van driver living not far away in digs off Tottenham Court Road – stood on a parking meter to get over the gallery's back wall. He then used a six-metre ladder left by builders to climb through the unlocked window of a men's toilet to get into the main building of the gallery.

"The painting was standing on an easel in a roped-off enclosure at the top of the main stairs. 'I went up to it, took hold of it, and carried it back to the gents toilet,' he told the police. He climbed back out of the window, down the ladder, and retraced his steps to the back wall by St Martin's Street. 'I climbed over the wall, still holding the picture in one hand ... I put the picture on the back seat of the car and drove back to [his furnished room in] Grafton Street. I then put the picture under my bed.'"

Bunton said that he hadn't carried a jemmy and if the toilet window had been shut he would have had to give up. He had to push-start the small black Wolseley that he used as a getaway car.

You can read more of this strange art story here.

Images: Look and Learn magazine illustrations for a story on the theft. Thanks to this new information we now know they got the thief wrong and that the painting wasn’t taken off a wall. The illustrations Recovery of the stolen Goya portrait of the Duke of Wellington are by Andrew Howat / Private Collection / © Look and Learn / The Bridgeman Art Library