Thieves have stolen thousands of prints by the acclaimed graffiti artist STIK that were intended as a free gift for residents in northeast London, police said on Tuesday.
The street artist, who paints stick figure people, had intended to distribute posters of his 2016 work “Holding Hands” to every household in Hackney to keep or sell.
But the Metropolitan Police said despite a print run of 100,000 of the 50cm x 50cm posters in five colours, many people did not receive theirs, prompting an investigation.
About 1,000 fans who unwittingly bought the prints online returned them after finding out they should not have been on sale in the first place.
Met Police Detective Constable James Readman said the theft appeared to have occurred “somewhere along the supply and distribution chain”.
Hackney Council said it was “disappointing to learn that an individual or group of individuals has chosen to steal them for personal gain”.
London’s Evening Standard newspaper reported in 2012 that STIK, who like fellow artist Banksy keeps his identity a fiercely guarded secret, was homeless before he gained a cult following.
His distinctive works now sell for thousands of pounds and have been bought by the likes of musicians Elton John, Bono, Brian May and Tinie Tempah.