Thief admits stealing 18-carat gold toilet worth £4.8m from Blenheim Palace – as three other men appear in court to deny charges related to the theft

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  • Reading time:3 min(s) read

  • Installation was plumbed in palace near room where Winston Churchill was born

A thief has admitted to stealing an 18-carat gold toilet worth a whopping £4.8million from Blenheim Palace while three other men pleaded not guilty to charges related to the theft.

James Sheen pleaded guilty to burglary, transferring criminal property and conspiracy to do the same, via videolink at Oxford Crown Court today.

The 39-year-old spoke from HMP Five Wells in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, where he is already serving a 17-year sentence for a string of thefts, including from ATMs. 

Sheen, who is from Wellingborough, also previously stole £400,000 worth of tractors and high-value trophies from the National Horse Racing Museum in Newmarket. 

Michael Jones, 38, Frederick Does (formerly Sines), 35, and Bora Guccuk, 40, all pleaded not guilty to charges related to the theft of the toilet, which was taken in September 2019 while it formed part of an art installation entitled ‘America’.

The exhibition allowed visitors to look at and even sit on the statement toilet, which was designed by artist Maurizio Cattelan and plumbed in the palace, near the room where Winston Churchill was born. 

The installation had initially been fitted at the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 2016 where 100,000 people queued to use it before it moved to Blenheim.

James Sheen (pictured), 39, has admitted to stealing an 18-carat gold toilet worth a whopping £4.8million from Blenheim Palace while three other men pleaded not guilty to charges related to the theft

James Sheen (pictured), 39, has admitted to stealing an 18-carat gold toilet worth a whopping £4.8million from Blenheim Palace while three other men pleaded not guilty to charges related to the theft

The toilet (pictured) was taken in September 2019 while it formed part of an art installation entitled 'America'

The toilet (pictured) was taken in September 2019 while it formed part of an art installation entitled ‘America’ 

The exhibition allowed visitors to look at and even sit on the statement toilet, which was designed by artist Maurizio Cattelan and plumbed in the palace, near the room where Winston Churchill was born (pictured: the empty space left after the toilet was taken)

The exhibition allowed visitors to look at and even sit on the statement toilet, which was designed by artist Maurizio Cattelan and plumbed in the palace, near the room where Winston Churchill was born (pictured: the empty space left after the toilet was taken)

The installation had initially been fitted at the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 2016 where 100,000 people queued to use it before it moved to Blenheim (pictured)

The installation had initially been fitted at the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 2016 where 100,000 people queued to use it before it moved to Blenheim (pictured) 

Michael Jones (pictured, left), 38, Frederick Does (formerly Sines) (centre), 35, and Bora Guccuk (right), 40, all pleaded not guilty to charges related to the theft of the toilet, which was taken in September 2019 while it formed part of an art installation entitled 'America'

Michael Jones (pictured, left), 38, Frederick Does (formerly Sines) (centre), 35, and Bora Guccuk (right), 40, all pleaded not guilty to charges related to the theft of the toilet, which was taken in September 2019 while it formed part of an art installation entitled ‘America’ 

Jones  is charged with burglary

Jones (pictured, leaving Oxford Magistrates’ Court in November) is charged with burglary

Guccuk (pictured, leaving Oxford Magistrates' Court in November) is charged with conspiracy to transfer criminal property, as is Does

Guccuk (pictured, leaving Oxford Magistrates’ Court in November) is charged with conspiracy to transfer criminal property, as is Does

Speaking at the time of the theft, artist Cattelan said he hoped the theft was a prank and asked ‘who’s so stupid to steal a toilet? [The work titled] America was the one per cent for the 99 per cent’.

Meanwhile the palace’s chief executive Dominic Hare said he hoped the ‘pointless’ theft would ‘immortalise’ the work before defending the stately homes ‘sophisticated security system’.

The boss added that it was ‘deeply ironic’ that a work ‘portraying the American Dream’ and the elite object made available to all was ‘instantly snatched away and hidden from view’.

Jones, who is charged with burglary, and Does and Guccuk, who are charged with conspiracy to transfer criminal property, are all set to go on trial on February 24 2025.