Four men charged over gold toilet theft at Blenheim Palace after £4.8 million art installation vanished in 2019

6 November 2023, 19:33 | Updated: 6 November 2023, 19:41

Blenheim Palace Hosts Artist Maurizio Cattelan's First Solo UK Exhibition
Blenheim Palace Hosts Artist Maurizio Cattelan's First Solo UK Exhibition. Picture: Getty

By Christian Oliver

Four men have been charged over the theft of a £4.8 million, 18-carat solid gold toilet following a raid on Sir Winston Churchill’s birthplace.

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The toilet was stolen from Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire in the early hours of September 14, 2019. James Sheen, 39, was charged with one count of burglary, one count of conspiracy to transfer criminal property, and an additional count of transferring criminal property. Michael Jones, 38, was also charged with one count of burglary.

Fred Doe, 35, and Bora Guccuk, 39, are also accused of conspiring to transfer criminal property. The four men are due to appear before Oxford magistrates on 28 November.

Police had made several arrests over the theft since 2019 - but this is the first time anyone has been formally charged.

The golden functioning toilet was an art installation titled ‘America’ by Italian sculptor Maurizio Cattelan.

It had been installed at the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 2016 - where some 100,000 people had queued to use it.

Cattelan at the time questioned: “Who's so stupid to steal a toilet? America was the one per cent for the 99 per cent.”

Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, England
Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, England. Picture: Alamy

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Plumbed into the palace, the golden toilet had a three-minute time limit to prevent lengthy queues before it was stolen after just two days.

Theft also caused flooding and severe damage to the stately home, built in 1722.

War-time Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill was born at the palace in 1874, and was since deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Senior Crown Prosecutor Shan Saunders from the Crown Prosecution Service said: "The CPS has authorised charges in relation to the theft of a gold toilet from Blenheim Palace in 2019.

"Criminal proceedings against James Sheen, Michael Jones, Fred Doe and Bora Guccuk are now active and they each have the right to a fair trial.

"It is extremely important that there should be no reporting, commentary or sharing of information online which could in any way prejudice these proceedings."