Bring back our Banksy: head's plea to art thief

3rd July 2009 at 01:00

A headteacher who collects art has appealed for the return of a valuable rare print by Banksy that was stolen from his school during a summer fete.

While most school artwork is likely to be the effort of pupils, at Highgate Primary in Sileby, Leicestershire, children are used to more sophisticated fare, which as well as the work by the mysterious artist also features a Picasso print and some sculptures.

David Godfrey, the head, bought the print four years ago for just a "few hundred pounds", but it is now valued at Pounds 17,500.

Mr Godfrey found out its current value only after the theft. It is unlikely that the school's insurance will cover the loss.

He is now desperately appealing for whoever took the picture, which adorned his office wall, to return it. It is believed to have gone missing during a fete and car boot sale, part of which was held in the school.

The print, which shows a leopard coming out of a bar code made to look like a cage, was a favourite of many pupils and it was an infant who first noticed its disappearance.

"We buy pictures which are interesting and which will inspire children," Mr Godfrey said. "But we move them around all the time, and it wasn't until the boy asked where the picture 'with the tiger' was, as he was walking by, that we noticed it had gone."

Police are investigating the print's disappearance. Because all Banksy works are limited editions with serial numbers, the thief will find it hard to sell on the open market.

"We are just shocked at how much the picture is now worth," Mr Godfrey said. "I think it might be over the limit of our insurance, although we are checking this."

Many of the items in the school gallery, including the Picasso, are hired from the local council's lending scheme.

The theft is thought to have happened on Saturday, June 20, and was reported on the following Tuesday as office staff were off on the Monday.

Police want to speak to anyone seen in the Heathcote Drive area carrying a black-framed painting measuring about 2ft x 2ft 6in on the weekend of June 19-22. Phone them on 0116 222 2222 or contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

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