A mum-of-five woke up to find her home had more than doubled in value overnight – after artist BANKSY sprayed a £500,000 mural on her wall.
Stunned Karen Smith, 48, heard voices outside in the early hours but thought nothing of it until she spotted men loading huge screens into a van in the morning.
She watched them zoom off before finding a painting of three 1950s-style spies on the side of her £300,000 three-bed semi in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire.
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The men in the picture are carrying listening devices and crowded around a real phone box outside her home.
Experts say it is a genuine Banksy and is thought to be a nod to the town’s role as the home for Government spy centre GCHQ. The mural is sprayed around a phone box showing men in brown coats using equipment to listen to the call. The unit and its U.S. counterpart the NSA sparked outrage after allegedly listening in on private calls.
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Similar works of art recently chiselled off brickwork in London have sold for was much as £500,000 at auction.
But unlucky full-time mum Karen won’t profit from the Banksy – because she only RENTS the house from a private landlord.
She said: “I think it is pretty amazing. I heard male voices outside in the early hours but it wasn’t till I saw the tarpaulin screen at about 7.30am I thought anything of it.
“I thought it might be something to do with the police, like when a crime happens.
”When I came out I saw people staring at it and asked them what they were looking at.
“There was also a van with writing all over it where they were putting the screens in.”
Karen, who spotted the artwork at 7.30am on Sunday, added: “When I saw it I hadn’t even heard of Banksy but as soon as my daughter saw it she knew straight away and told me how popular he is.
“It’s pretty good. It livens the street up a bit.”
Earlier this year ‘Girl with Red Balloon’ was chainsawed off a wall in Shoreditch, east London, after someone bought it for £500,000.
The famous ‘Kissing Coppers’ sold for £350,000 in February after it was removed from a Brighton pub 10 years ago.
Karen added: I’ve heard they can be worth a lot. I’ve been trying to get hold of my landlord but they haven’t got back to me.”
The painting is yet to be officially claimed by the secretive artist, but grafitti experts say it has all the tell-tale traits of the Bristol-born creator.
Website streetartnews said: “At the break of dawn, the British street artist showed up with a maintenance van and covered all the sides with tarpaulin to execute his new stencil.
“While not officially confirmed by his website, this piece has all the Banksy characteristics in narrative, style and execution.”
Cheltenham street artist, Dice67 said: “It’s definitely Banksy.
“It’s brilliant. Graffiti is definitely all about location. That’s why he’s come to Cheltenham, to do something about GCHQ.
“People will travel to Cheltenham from all over the world to see this.”
Pictures of the work were also posted on Facebook by Robin Gunningham – a name often linked to the secretive artist.
GCHQ in Cheltenham yesterday released a statement about the Banksy.
It said: ”This is the first time we have ever been asked to comment on art.
“Although we are not qualified critics, we are as intrigued as the rest of the residents of Cheltenham about the appearance of the mysterious artwork.
“For those who are interested, our website (www.gchq.gov.uk) gives a glimpse of what modern day intelligence operatives are really like, although some may be disappointed by the lack of trench coats and dark glasses.”