HISTORY OF THE DAY
According to Oleg Loginov
THE THEFT OF THE PORTRAIT OF THE DUKE OF WELLINGTON
The unemployed former bus driver Kempton Bunton was very offended by the UK government for the failures in his life. And to be honest, he was not unreasonably offended. For example, in 1961, this government decided to develop television at the expense of citizens and imposed a certain television fee on them. Bunton did not pay and, they say, got into jail for it. In the same 1961, the oil magnate from America, Charles Wrightsman, purchased for $ 392,000 the «Portrait of the Duke of Wellington» by Francisco Goya and was going to take him to the USA. However, this caused a scandal in England, after which the British government bought an object of national pride from an American and placed it in the National Gallery in London. Upon learning about this, Kempton got angry: it means that the government is sorry for money for TV antennas for the people, but not for some daub. And then he decided to act. Bunton went to the National Gallery, where he somehow managed to get the guards to talk and found out that complex security systems and alarms were turned off briefly in the early morning during cleaning. Then Kempton went into the toilet and opened the window.
The next day, August 21, 1961, at six o’clock in the morning, Bunton was back in the gallery. He got there through the window opened the day before in the toilet. Then he waited for the guards to turn off the alarm to allow the cleaner to clean the floor. He jumped out into the hall, tore off the portrait of the Duke of Wellington by Francisco Goya from the wall and retreated through the toilet unnoticed by anyone. Then Bunton sent several letters promising to return the painting if the government transferred 140 thousand pounds to the charity fund so that the money could be used to pay for a television license to all distressed pensioners in Britain.
Andrew Howat. «Portrait of Goya Wellington, found at Birmingham train station»
But the government was principled and did not pay. Tired of fighting with the authorities, Kempton Bunton voluntarily returned the painting in 1965, sending information about its whereabouts to the Daily Mirror newspaper.
Experts are discussing the state of Goya’s painting.
Due to legal casuistry, he could not be convicted of stealing the painting. Lawyer Jeremy Hutchinson was able to prove that Bunton could not be guilty of theft, since he did not intend to permanently deprive the owner — the National Gallery — of the painting. He simply «borrowed» Wellington to draw attention to what he considered an «outrageous» sum of 140,000 pounds paid for him «when so many old-age pensioners could not even afford a television license.»
Then Bunton was given a three-month prison sentence for stealing the frame, which he lost after the abduction.
The story of the theft and Bunton’s subsequent trial was dramatized in the 2020 film «The Duke» starring Jim Broadbent and Helen Mirren. After the release of the film, Christopher Bunton revealed previously unknown details of his grandfather’s theft, including the family side of the story.
*Texts from Wikipedia and other Internet resources were used.
*Translated using an electronic dictionary. The original text in Russian and much more on the criminal topic can be selected on the main page of the site — http://crimerecords.info/