One of Banksy's most famous murals has been destroyed in an incident that has left local authorities scratching their heads.
"Spy Booth," depicting three secret agents surrounding a phone booth with recording equipment, first appeared in April 2014 on the wall of a house in Cheltenham, England, a short distance from GCHQ, the home of UK surveillance operations. It's believed to be a commentary on state surveillance by the British street artist.
Granted retrospective planning permission by Cheltenham County Council in 2015 to appear on the Grade II listed building, "Spy Booth" has been vandalized on multiple occasions and now appears to have been destroyed entirely.
In January 2016 the 19th century end-of-terrace property was put on the market
for £210,000 ($275,000). In recent days scaffolding and tarpaulin was erected around the wall. Peeking behind the covers, an image taken by the Press Association on Sunday shows the wall stripped back to the brickwork. It was initially unclear whether the work was removed beforehand or lies within the rubble.
An exposed brick wall on the side of a house on Fairview Road adjacent to St. Anne's Terrace, Cheltenham, where a graffiti street art piece suspected of being a Banksy appears to have been removed. Credit: Press Association/PA Images/Sipa USA
"We have met the owner," confirms council built environment enforcement manager Mark Nelson, who says work on the property was being conducted following an 'urgent works notice' issued by the council to "stop further deterioration to the listed building."
"We have endeavored to protect the Banksy work as much as possible and to this end the notice required the owner to have due regard for the Banksy mural whilst works were being undertaken."
This controversial mural of US presidential nominee Hilary Clinton is by Australian street artist Lushsux. He recently modified the work to depict Clinton in a burqa. Credit: PAUL CROCK/AFP/Getty Images
However damage appears to have been incurred.
"The owner has left pieces of the render with attached Banksy 'Spy Booth' mural on it with the council whilst investigations are continuing," Nelson continues.
"We would advise anyone against removing any further pieces from the location as this may be classed as a criminal offense," he adds. "Until the investigation is complete we are unable to say what if any further action will be taken".