8 men on trial accused of stealing Banksy mural done on door of Paris’ Bataclan to honor terror victims

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    More than two years after gunmen opened fire on concert-goers at the Bataclan in Paris in November 2015, a stencil in white paint of a downcast young girl appeared on the security door of the concert hall.

    “The Sad Young Girl,” as the work became known, was immediately attributed to British street artist Banksy. It was part of a series he made during a visit to Paris in 2018, and the work is estimated to be worth almost $540 million.

    Graffiti Artist Banksy Mural In Paris
    People take pictures of an artwork attributed to street artist Banksy on June 26, 2018 in Paris, France, on a side street by the Bataclan concert hall where a terrorist attack killed 90 people on November 13, 2015.

    Chesnot / Getty Images

    In January 2019, the tribute to the victims was stolen, when investigators say hooded thieves drove up to the concert hall in the middle of the night and used an angle grinder to cut out the artwork — and most of the door. The Banksy work was found in good condition in an abandoned farmhouse in the Abruzzo region in Italy a year after its disappearance.

    This week, eight men are on trial in Paris, charged with theft and receiving stolen goods. Seven are from Lyon in eastern France. The eighth is an Italian citizen.

    One of the suspects on trial is a lottery millionaire who is a fan of street art. Investigators say he denied ordering the theft. 

    Investigators were able to identify the men once they made the link between the art theft and a robbery at a hardware store in Lyon that was 12 days before, in which angle grinders and generators were stolen. The suspect’s cell phones were traced to a cell tower by the Bataclan.

    Early in the investigation, French police suspected an established gang of art thieves must have been behind the heist. However, the attorney representing the man in charge of cutting the door with a circular saw said his client had never heard of Banksy.

    The theft prompted widespread anger in France. Their then president, Francois Hollande, called it “an act of war.” The Bataclan said the artwork was a “symbol of remembrance and belongs to all: locals, Parisians, citizens of the world.”

    The attack on the Bataclan killed 90 people during a night of attacks in several parts of Paris that left a total of 130 people dead and hundreds more injured.

    The trial is expected to end Friday.

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