Man tried to destroy Banksy artwork to stop it leaving Wales

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  • Banksy
    Banksy
    English graffiti artist, political activist, and painter
PORT TALBOT, WALES - DECEMBER 20: People gather around fences that have been erected to protect the latest  piece of artwork by the underground guerrilla artist Banksy on December 20, 2018 in Port Talbot, Wales. The British graffiti artist who keeps his identity a secret, confirmed yesterday that the artwork was his using his verified Instagram account to announce 'Season's greetings' with a video of the artwork in Port Talbot. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
Banksy's Season's Greetings artwork appeared in Port Talbot in December 2018. (Getty)

A man has avoided jail after he attempted to destroy a famous Banksy painting as a protest over its removal from a Welsh town.

Michael Thomas, 42, attempted to get access to the exhibition space housing the Season’s Greetings artwork in Port Talbot by breaking the windows with the intention of spraying the street art with white paint.

Swansea Crown Court heard that Thomas hammered at the glass in the early morning raid on 26 November last year and could be heard shouting: "It is for us. They are trying to take it away. Some rich man has it."

The Banksy artwork appeared overnight on the wall of a garage in Port Talbot in December 2018 and was later bought for an undisclosed six-figure sum by a private collector from Essex.

It was then moved to a temporary exhibition space at the Ty'r Orsaf building in the centre of Port Talbot – but hopes that it could form the centrepiece of a permanent street-art gallery in the town were dashed, and the owner confirmed he would be removing it by the deadline of January this year.

PORT TALBOT, UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 20: Artwork by artist Banksy in Port Talbot near the Tata Steel steelworks on January 20, 2019 in Port Talbot, United Kingdom. The British graffiti artist, who keeps his identity a secret, confirmed that the artwork was his using his verified Instagram account to announce 'Season's greetings' with a video of the artwork in Port Talbot. The artwork shows a child playing in snow which is actually soot from a bonfire. (Photo by Matthew Horwood/Getty Images)
The artwork by artist Banksy in Port Talbot became a tourist attraction after it appeared in 2018. (Getty)

Sian Cutter, prosecuting, said people living nearby were woken by the sounds of shouting and loud banging, and they saw a man smashing ground floor windows of the property.

The court heard the hammering went on for a number of minutes before Thomas left the scene when challenged by neighbours who told him he was disturbing their children.

Watch: Banksy painting appears in Wales

Cutter said that later that same day Thomas contacted the police to tell them what he had done, saying he had acted in anger and didn’t want the Banksy to leave town so had decided to destroy it.

In his subsequent interview he added that the fact he had been drinking on the night in question "might have made it worse".

The cost of repairing the damage to the Ty'r Orsaf building is put at £1,058.

Art dealer John Brandler (left), with garage owner Ian Lewis, as Banksy's Season's Greetings mural has been removed from a steelworker�s garage and relocated to an art gallery.
Art dealer John Brandler, left, with garage owner Ian Lewis, as Banksy's Season's Greetings mural was removed from a garage and relocated to an art gallery. (PA)

Season’s Greetings became an overnight tourist attraction after it was painted onto a breeze block garage, with fences and a screen erected to protect it while its future was decided.

The painting was subsequently bought by Essex-based art dealer John Brandler for an unspecified six-figure sum, and in May 2019 it was removed from Richmond Terrace.

At the time Brandler, said he wanted the Banksy to form the centrepiece of a major street-art gallery in Port Talbot, but just weeks later he changed his mind about the project, blaming the council for his decision.

Banksy's Season's Greetings mural being removed from a steelworker�s garage and relocated to an art gallery.
Banksy's Season's Greetings mural being removed from a steelworker's garage and relocated to an art gallery. (PA)

Thomas, of Mayfield Road, Port Talbot, had previously pleaded guilty to attempted burglary with intent to commit criminal damage and to criminal damage.

He was sentenced to 14 months in prison suspended for two years, and was ordered to complete a mental health treatment requirement, an alcohol treatment requirement, and a rehabilitation course. 

He must also abide by an electronically-monitored nightly curfew for the next 12 weeks.

Thomas was also ordered to pay Neath Port Talbot Council £1,058 in compensation at the rate of £40 per month.

Watch: Rare Banksy interview unearthed

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