A solid gold toilet valued at £1m has been stolen from Blenheim Palace weeks after security concerns were dismissed by the family which owns the historic site.
Burglars caused “significant damage and flooding” when they removed the plumbed-in artwork from the home of the Duke of Marlborough in Woodstock, Oxfordshire.
The theft was reported to police minutes after the thieves left at around 4.50am. A 66 year-old man has been arrested in connection with the incident.
“It’s not going to be the easiest thing to nick,” he told The Sunday Times last month. “Firstly its 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 on guarding it.”
Thames Valley Police said they would not comment on the security arrangements or whether the Lord’s comments may have inspired the burglars.
Blenheim Palace, which markets itself as the birthplace of Winston Churchill, confirmed that it would be closed for the rest of the day while police remained at the scene.
“We can confirm ‘America’, the art piece by Maurizio Cattelan has been stolen in the early hours of this morning,” the palace said in a statement. “We are saddened by this extraordinary event, but also relieved no one was hurt.
“We knew there was huge interest in the Maurizio Cattelan contemporary art exhibition, with many set to come and enjoy the installations. It’s therefore a great shame an item so precious has been taken.”
Thames Valley Police said in a statement the 18-carat toilet had not yet been recovered.
“We believe a group offenders used at least two vehicles during the offence,” said Detective Inspector Jess Milne.
“We are conducting a thorough investigation to find it and bring those responsible to justice.
“I am appealing to anyone who saw or heard anything suspicious in the area to contact police.
“Due to the toilet being plumbed in to the building, this has caused significant damage and flooding.”
The palace was built in the early 18th century and is the ancestral home of the Dukes of Marlborough. It was designated a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1987.
Winston Churchill was born at Blenheim on 30 November 1874 and was a frequent visitor, proposing to his wife in a summer house on the grounds in 1908.
The golden toilet was created in 2016 for the New York Guggenheim museum, where it was used by more than 100,000 visitors. It was only recently installed at the palace for an exhibition which started on Thursday.