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4 charged in theft of $5.9M gold toilet from Churchill's birthplace

A fully-functioning gold toilet, an artwork titled "America," was stolen from Winston Churchill's birthplace in 2019.
4 charged in theft of $5.9M gold toilet from Churchill's birthplace
Posted at 4:10 PM, Nov 06, 2023

The mystery of a missing 18-carat gold toilet from Winston Churchill's birthplace appears to have finally been flushed out.

Four men were charged Monday in the theft of the nearly $6 million loo — an art piece by Italian conceptual artist Maurizio Cattelan called "America."

The fully functioning toilet — which is a nod to its namesake country's excessive wealth, per Cattelan — had been part of an exhibition at Blenheim Palace, the English country mansion where Churchill was born, days before it vanished overnight from the palace in September 2019.

Though it still hasn't been found, the Crown Prosecution Service said it's now brought criminal charges against four men, ranging in age from 35 to 39, over the theft, which has seen seven suspects arrested over the years. The four charged will face counts of burglary and conspiracy to transfer criminal property at Oxford Magistrates Court on Nov. 28.

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Before its disappearance, visitors could book "America" for three-minute increments to use it, and because it was connected to Blenheim's plumbing, the thieves who took it caused "significant damage and flooding" to the building, which dates back to the early 1700s.

The toilet was previously installed at New York's Guggenheim Museum, where 100,000 people had lined up to use it.

Fears now point to whether the thieves already melted the art piece down and sold its parts — a thought that didn't cross the mind of its maker when news first broke.

"At first, when they woke me up this morning with the news, I thought it was a prank: Who's so stupid to steal a toilet?" Cattelan told the New York Times in 2019. "I had forgotten for a second that it was made out of gold. 'America' was the 1% for the 99%, and I hope it still is. I want to be positive and think the robbery is a kind of Robin Hood-inspired action."

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