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WHAT! UK man admits to stealing 18-carat gold toilet worth Rs 50 crore from Blenheim Palace


UK, golden toilet stolen, Blenheim Palace
Image Source : AP (FILE) An earlier picture of the golden toilet called ‘America’ in the UK’s Blenheim Palace.

London: In a bizarre piece of news, a man in the United Kingdom pleaded guilty to stealing an 18-carat, fully functioning toilet worth 4.8 million pounds (Rs 50 crore) from the Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire county where former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was born. James Sheen, 39, admitted to stealing the lavatory in September 2019 when it was featured in an art exhibition, the Guardian reported.

Sheen pleaded guilty to the charges of burglary, converting or transferring criminal property and conspiracy to do the same at Oxford Crown Court. The toilet was created by the Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan and was plumbed in at the time of the theft, causing flooding and damage to the 18th-century house in Woodstock.

The unusual artwork, titled “America,” was first displayed at the Guggenheim in New York City in 2016. It made headlines again in 2017 after US President Donald Trump’s White House emailed the Guggenheim asking to borrow Vincent Van Gogh’s 1888 painting “Landscape with Snow”, instead, the institution’s curator offered the gold toilet, according to CNN.

The expensive toilet was installed in the Blenheim Palace in a room next to the one in which Churchill was born. A statement announcing the exhibition said the work could be perceived as a comment on the social, political and economic disparities in the United States.

The perpetrator appeared in court via video link from HMP Five Wells, where he is already serving a 17-year sentence for numerous thefts including 400,000 pounds (Rs 4.2 crore) worth of tractors and high-value trophies from the National Horse Racing Museum in Newmarket. Sheen belongs to Wellingborough in Northamptonshire.

Three other men have pleaded not guilty to charges related to the theft of the toilet. Michael Jones, 38, from Oxford, is accused of burglary. Frederick Sines, also known as Frederick Doe, from Berkshire, and Bora Guccuk, 40, of west London, are both accused of conspiracy to transfer criminal property. The men are due to go on trial on 24 February 2025.

Seven people had been arrested over the heist, but no charges have been brought until Monday, four years after the toilet was stolen. The artwork has never been found. The golden toilet was fully functioning, and prior to the theft, visitors to the exhibition could book a three-minute appointment to use it.

In 2019, another golden toilet made headlines when Hong Kong jeweller Aaron Shum displayed the lavatory made of solid gold and 40,815 pieces of diamond, totalling 334.68 carats, estimated at $1.3 million or Rs 9 crore. Its lid was made of bulletproof glass that encased the diamonds.

(with AP inputs)

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