Man pleads guilty to golden toilet theft at British palace: Reports

James Sheen, 39, pleaded guilty to the charges at the Oxford Crown Court on Tuesday. Three other men charged in connection to the case have pleaded not guilty.


A British man has pleaded guilty to stealing an 18-carat golden toilet that was part of an art exhibition in England, multiple news outlets have reported.

James Sheen, 39, was charged with one count each of burglary, conspiracy to transfer criminal property and transferring criminal property, the Crown Prosecution Service said in November.

Sheen, from Wellingborough in Northamptonshire just northwest of London, pleaded guilty to the charges Tuesday at the Oxford Crown Court, Bracknell News and the Oxford Mail reported.

According to the Oxford Mail, Sheen is already serving a 17-year sentence for multiple thefts, including ATM burglaries. It’s unclear how much additional time he may face behind bars as a result of his guilty plea.

Other men charged with golden toilet theft

Three other men were arrested in connection to the golden toilet theft, the Crown Prosecution Service said in November.

The three men and their charges include:

  • Michael Jones, 38, one count of burglary
  • Fred Doe, 35, one count of conspiracy to transfer criminal property
  • Bora Guccuk, 39, one count of conspiracy to transfer criminal property

Jones, Doe and Guccuk have pleaded not guilty and are set for trial on Feb. 24, 2025.

Stolen toilet was part of art exhibition

Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan created the piece, titling it “America.” It was part of an art installation at Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of former prime minister Winston Churchill.

“We knew there was huge interest in the Maurizio Cattelan contemporary art exhibition, with many set to come and enjoy the installations,” Blenheim Palace tweeted the day of the incident. “It’s therefore a great shame an item so precious has been taken.”

Organizers predicted at least 6,000 people would visit to use the fully functioning toilet. The toilet was also on display in 2016 at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, where at least 100,000 people used it.

Thames Valley Detective Inspector Jess Milne said at the time that the toilet was connected to the palace’s plumbing system, so the theft caused damage and flooding. Police also speculated that the burglars used at least two vehicles to steal the toilet.

Italian artist’s work was the subject of previous headlines

Cattelan, the artist who created the piece, also created the duct-taped banana that made its rounds online in 2019 on display at Art Basel in Miami.

The piece, a banana duct-taped to a wall, is one of many worth over $100,000. Artist David Datuna ate the banana in 2019 while it was on display in Miami.

“I love Maurizio Cattelan’s artwork and I really love this installation,” he later wrote as he posted about the ordeal online. “It’s very delicious.” 

Last year, a version of the piece was on display at the Leeum Museum of Art in Seoul. A student, reportedly an art major, ate the banana because he had skipped breakfast and was hungry.

Contributing: Camille Fine, Doug Stanglin, and Hannah Yasharoff

Saleen Martin is a reporter on USA TODAY’s NOW team. She is from Norfolk, Virginia – the 757. Follow her on Twitter at @SaleenMartin or email her at [email protected].

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