Robbery of the Goya National Gallery in the film El Duque.


Kempton Bunton was a retired taxi driver who stole Francisco de Goya’s famous “Portrait of the Duke of Wellington” from the National Gallery in 1961. He kept it in his possession for four years and asked for a reward of 140,000 euros to create a fund to finance the television license for retirees and the most disadvantaged. On June 3, “The Duke” will tell the story of the UK’s only exhibition heist.

the August 21, 1961 the national gallery London suffered the first and only robbery in its history:A picture of the Duke of Wellingtonfrom Francois Goya. The theft of the painting had such repercussions that it appeared in the film Agent 007 vs. Dr. NoJames Bond found the missing painting in his enemy’s cave. However, the real story was much more unlikely than fiction, so Roger Mitchell He did not miss the opportunity to be told on the big screen. “The Duke” It will come out later June 3 It will tell the story of the theft (and return in 1965) of the famous painting of a retired taxi driver, Kempton Bunton.

A picture of the Duke of Wellington It was Bought in 1961 for £140,000 £ (this painting currently costs around 2 million euros) to be exhibited at the Museum of London. The painting of the British aristocrat was considered of great value to art lovers in the country and has already passed through several private hands. The last person who wanted to get the part was Charles WrightmanOil tycoon. Being American, the British put all the meat on the grill so they can grab the plate and keep it in the country.

for Kempton Bunton, a 57-year-old retired taxi driver, the money invested in the consultancy seemed like nonsense, as the money could be used for causes more relevant to British society. Anger leads Ponton to find a way to achieve his goal: Steal the painting and claim back the £140,000 it cost. Why? create A fund that will help retirees and people without resources to pay for the basic necessities of taxi drivers: television.

BBC and TV tax, trigger

Bunton thinks so Television was a cure for loneliness for retirees and veterans, Her grandson admitted to the BBC around this time. “He thought it should be available to anyone who needed it and that was part of it. Campaign to demand free TV licenses for pensionerscontinued.

Image from the movie “The Duke”.

BBC at that time Financed by tax Citizens paid for it (and it still applies). Four books a month For some it could not mean much, but for other citizens it was a significant cost. Ponton sympathized with them, and although he admitted he could afford to pay, he refused to pay it. That was the reason He was arrested up to five times for failing to pay fees Watch the television. And also why it was stolen.

The truth is that Bunton was well acquainted with the entertainment provided by television. they or they Health problems (particularly obesity and diabetes, caused in part by sedentary work) means that The former taxi driver stayed at home with the TV as his faithful companion. And besides, TV didn’t always need a license to watch it.

From 1936 to 1939, people had to pay a license to listen to the radio, but not to watch television.provided as an additional service. However, since 1946 the situation has changed and the two services have been separated, at the cost of one pound per year for each user who wants to watch their favorite shows.

Stealing Goya from the National Gallery

With the idea in mind, Bunton only needed a plan to carry out his “campaign”. And it happened the day he went to see the famous painting in which he invested a lot of money. the museum curator Had a seemingly harmless conversation with the taxi driver, during which he confessed Advantages of new technologies in alarmswho reduced his work, but also told him System weakness: Every morning it would close for an hour to clean the case.

He also told police when he turned himself in four years after the robbery, Bunton had gone to the museum the day before at the last minute to open one of the windows in the men’s bathroomwhich had access to stairs. So the next morning He slipped in, took the plate and went with it to his home in Newcastle.

Portrait of the Duke of Wellington, by Francisco de Goya.

Bunton had been in Goya’s possession for four years, wrapped in newspaper. He would strategically move it so his wife wouldn’t know about the theft, and in the meantime, Send messages to Scotland Yard and major media From the country for painting costs. Quantity, 140 thousand pounds, must be donated to create the aforementioned aid fund to finance television for retirees. But since I didn’t get any results, It ended up attracting millionaires and art lovers To give them the paint for that amount.

Return, trial and the real culprit

Nearly four years after the theft, in July 1965, Ponton surrenders. Posted on DailyMirror From Birmingham, a parcel receipt from Mr. Bloxham. A publisher went to the safe deposit box at New Street station where the cargo was and found the painting that had been missing for four years. Despite that has no framewas intact.

Six weeks later, the West End Police Service received Pontoon who confessed to the theft With a story that, although not appropriate, was credible to the police given the nature of his criminal record. It was not entirely plausible that a tall, overweight, and immobile man could have committed the robbery, but it was found to be true and the trial began. He was charged with five crimes.But the lawyer Jeremy Hutchinson (who, despite some confessions, did not accuse him of being on the defensive), I only managed to get him to leave He was sentenced to afor which he was imprisoned for three months: frame theftwhich was lost in the burglary.

Then Bunton considered a sort of Robin Hood of television and his theft, according to his attorney’s defense, was nothing more than “Rigorous maintenance” of a table financed by public funds And that the ransom he demanded in return was not intended to enrich him.

In this way, Bunton paid for his only crime, and British criminal law changed its definition of theft (since after the painting was returned it was not considered theft by law) and four years later , in 1969, it was discovered in A real author. His son was John, who was 20 at the time, and was taking the stairs to the men’s restroom, slipped through the window into the museum. “I climbed the wall, still holding the painting with one hand. I put the board in the back of the car and drove to Grafton Street. I put the painting under my bed there,” he confessed to police.

According to the real thief, He did it because his father wanted to fund his “campaign” and because he was afraid he would do it to himself. Failing to do so, Kempton confessed and thus saved his son from prison.


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