Four Men Charged In Theft Of Golden Toilet From Churchill’s Birthplace

(AP) — Four men were charged Monday over the theft of an 18-carat gold toilet from Blenheim Palace, the sprawling English mansion where British wartime leader Winston Churchill was born.

The toilet, valued at 4.8 million pounds ($5.95 million), was the work of Italian conceptual artist Maurizio Cattelan. It was part of an art installation at Blenheim Palace, near the city of Oxford, a few days before it vanished overnight in September 2019.

The Crown Prosecution Service said Monday it has authorised criminal charges against four men, ages 35-39, over the theft. They are accused of burglary and conspiracy to transfer criminal property.

The golden toilet, titled “America,” was intended to be a pointed satire about excessive wealth. The lavatory was fully functioning, and prior to the theft, visitors to the exhibition could book a three-minute appointment to use it.

The artwork has never been found.

At the time of the theft, police said that because the toilet had been connected to the palace’s plumbing system, its removal caused “significant damage and flooding” to the building, a UNESCO World Heritage site filled with valuable art and furniture that draws thousands of visitors each year.

The Guggenheim Museum in New York, which hosted the art installation before it was shown at Blenheim Palace, described the toilet as “cast in 18-carat gold.” The museum said the artwork invites viewers to “make use of the fixture individually and privately” to experience “unprecedented intimacy with a work of art.”

The four suspects will appear at Oxford Magistrates’ Court on November 28, prosecutors said.