After a year-long investigation by Claudia Joseph, Simon Trump, Ewan Fletcher, Adam Luck, Jason Buckner and Craig Hibbert, the Mail on Sunday named Banksy as Robin Gunningham.
The the search began with a photo taken in Jamaica with a man in a blue shirt and jeans, with a touch of smile on his face and a spray can on his feet. Taken in 2004, it would show Banksy at work. When the photo was published, it appeared to be the first crack in the armor of the anonymity with which the artist has protected himself since his work began to attract the attention of the art world.
Flower power: a double yellow line turns into a huge yellow flower – with artist & # 39; self-portrait & # 39; – in London
Armed with this photo, the team traveled to Bristol, reportedly the home town of Banksy, where they contacted a man who claimed to have met the artist in real life.
Many people claimed so much, but when they asked for more information, they discovered that they knew & # 39; someone who met Banksy & # 39; – and the path ran cold.
However, this man not only claimed to have met the elusive artist, but was able to give us a name – not the usual variations of the Banks name, but all the more intriguing.
The man in the photo, he insisted, used to be known as Robin Gunningham – and it didn't take much imagination to figure out how such a name could result in the nickname Banksy.
From records that were available to the public, they could collect more information.
Robin's father, Peter Gordon Gunningham, came from the Whitehall region of Bristol. His mother, Pamela Ann Dawkin-Jones was the secretary of a company manager and grew up in the exclusive environment of Clifton.
The couple married on April 25, 1970 in Kingswood Wesley Methodist Church. Their daughter Sarah was born in Bristol's maternity clinic on February 8, 1972, when Peter had been promoted to regional manager for a hotel company and the couple had bought their first home, a semi-detached home in Bristol.
Robin was born in the same hospital on July 28, 1973. According to neighbors, the boy was operated on early on a split palette.
When Robin was nine, the family moved to a larger house on the same street and there he spent his formative years and became interested in graffiti.
A neighbor, Anthony Hallett, remembers that the couple took to the streets as newlyweds and lived there until 1998. They have since been divorced.
When they showed Mr. Hallett the Jamaica photo, he said the man in it was Robin Gunningham.
In 1984, Robin, then 11, put on black blazer, gray trousers and striped tie to go to the famous Bristol Cathedral, which currently charges £ 9,240 a year and lists super model Sophie Anderton as a former student.
It was hard to imagine Banksy, the anti-authoritarian apostate, as a public schoolboy walking through the 17th-century former monastery, with his upper and lower quadrangles and his prayers in the old cathedral.
But then they found a school photo, made in 1989, of a goggle wearing Robin Gunningham in which he shows a perceptible resemblance to the man in the photo of Jamaica.
Depicted is the former family house of Robin Gunningham in Bristol. Gunningham is believed to be Banksy
Indeed, fellow students remind Robin, who was at Deans House, as a particularly gifted artist.
In the rare interviews that Banksy (always anonymous) gave, the artist acknowledged that he first became interested in graffiti at school.
Robin Gunningham left school at the age of 16 after doing GCSEs and started frolicking in street art.
As the investigation continued, their investigations demonstrated time and again that the details of Robin Gunningham's life story fit perfectly with the known facts about Banksy.
By 1998, Robin Gunningham lived in Easton, Bristol, with Luke Egan, who subsequently exhibited with Banksy in Santa & Ghetto, an art store that was launched in the West End in London at Christmas 2001.
Egan and Gunningham are supposed to have left the house when the owner wanted to sell it.
Camilla Stacey, curator at Bristol & # 39; s Here Gallery, who bought the property in 2000, said Banksy and Robin Gunningham are one and the same person. She knew that the house had been inhabited by Banksy because of the artwork that had been left there – and she received mail in the name of Robin Gunningham.
When the group was almost certain that Banksy was Gunningham, they went looking for him and tried to see if his parents would help.
His mother Pamela lived in a neat modern bungalow in a village outside of Bristol. After identifying ourselves, they asked her if she had a son named Robin.
Her response was very strange. They showed her the Jamaica photo and she was visibly shocked, but she said she did not recognize the man in the photo, to whom she looks more than a passing parable. They asked if she could put us in contact with him.
& # 39; I'm afraid I don't know how to get in touch with him, & # 39; she said.
So she had a son named Robin? & # 39; No, I don't. I don't have a son at all. & # 39;
They asked her if she had other children. & # 39; Yes, a daughter. & # 39;
But no son and certainly no son who went to Bristol Cathedral?
& # 39; No, & # 39; she said, denying that she was Pamela Gunningham, insisting that the electoral roll was wrong.
Their conversation with Peter Gunningham, who now lived in a closed development on the outskirts of Kingsdown, was equally astonishing.
Again they presented the photo of Banksy / Robin Gunningham. Gunningham said he didn't recognize the person in the photo. They told him they believed his son was Banksy. & # 39; No, & # 39; he replied. & # 39; I really can't help you. & # 39;
Gunningham continued to politely deny that his son was Banksy, but his approach was almost playful. He refused to give them any information about Robin. It was all very strange.
If the couple had never heard of Banksy or Robin Gunningham, you might have expected a reaction of complete bewilderment. This did not seem to be the case.
They then contacted the Banksy public relations officer who, according to the best Banksy tradition, did not confirm or deny the story.
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