Man arrested after attack on statue at BBC HQ with hammer and chisel

A suspect has been arrested after a man wearing a Spider-Man mask appeared to attack a statue on the front of the BBC’s Broadcasting House in central London with a hammer and chisel.

Scotland Yard said that officers were called to Portland Place on Saturday at around 4.15am, to a report that someone had scaled scaffolding and was damaging the sculpture, and an arrest was made just after 6pm.

The incident comes days after repair work was started to the previously-attacked statue by Eric Gill, who is said to have sexually abused two of his daughters.

The Grade-II listed statue depicts Prospero and Ariel from Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

BBC statues attacked
A police cordon outside BBC Broadcasting House in London (Jonathan Brady/PA)

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: “The man was reportedly damaging a sculpture.

“Officers attended the location. Due to the circumstances of the incident, including the height, specialist officers were called to the scene.

“Shortly after 6pm the man was arrested on suspicion of criminal damage and going equipped.

“He will be taken into police custody.”

Onlookers had seen a man wearing a Spider-Man mask on scaffolding surrounding sculpture.

He had also strung up a banner criticising the corporation.

He was described as a “masked protester” in a BBC Radio London news bulletin on Saturday.

The statue has been on display at Broadcasting House since 1932, but was attacked last year amid calls for it to be removed.

The statue has previously been targeted with a hammer.

Earlier this month, the BBC said the repair work had been agreed after “careful consideration” which took into account the historical and cultural significance of the building.

There had also been discussions with leading cultural organisations such as Historic England.

It said that all costs would be covered through the corporation’s insurance and not the licence fee.

Scaffolding went up around the building and expert stonemasons began repairing the piece which is carved from Caen stone, a type of limestone quarried in north-west France.

The broadcaster said the repair work would be used to provide additional context about the artwork and Gill, and that members of the public would also be able to access a QR code nearby.

Robert Seatter, head of BBC History, said: “Broadcasting House is a building of historical and cultural significance and one of the foundations of modern-day broadcasting, both in this country and around the world.

“We have a responsibility to maintain and preserve the building for generations to come.

“Alongside this, Gill’s abusive behaviour and lifestyle are well documented and the BBC in no way condones his behaviour.

“So while it is right that the fabric of the building is restored, we must also ensure people are fully informed about the history connected to it.”

Gill was among the most prominent sculptors of the 20th century until his death in 1940, but his diaries – published much later – detailed the sexual abuse of his daughters.

A biography on the Tate museum website said: “His religious views and subject matter contrast with his sexual behaviour, including his erotic art, and (as mentioned in his own diaries) his extramarital affairs and sexual abuse of his daughters, sisters and dog.”

More than 3,000 people have signed a petition demanding the removal of the sculpture on the website of political activist group 38 Degrees.

The repairs had been set to be completed by the end of June.