A mural by street artist Banksy on the side of a former prison which housed playwright Oscar Wilde has been defaced with red paint.
The artwork, on the red brick wall of the former Reading Prison, showed an inmate escaping lockdown using a knotted spool of paper from a typewriter.
It appeared on March 1 and was officially confirmed as a Banksy on March 4, when the elusive artist posted a video on his Instagram account.
On Tuesday, pictures emerged showing the piece, entitled Create Escape, had been defaced with red paint covering the typewriter, with the phrase ‘Team Robbo’ below.
This is believed to be a reference to graffiti artist King Robbo, who was in a long-running feud with Banksy before his death in 2014.
Their rivalry is believed to have begun in 2009, when Banksy painted over one of King Robbo’s tags by Regent’s Canal in Camden.
Save Reading Gaol, a campaign to turn the former prison into an arts and culture hub, tweeted on Tuesday: ‘A sad morning as we learn that the Banksy mural on the side of Reading Gaol has been deliberately damaged with red paint.
‘Awful news to wake up to and to realise that the failure to protect something precious to the town has left it vulnerable to destruction.’
Banksy confirmed the piece was his work in footage told in the parody of an instructional art video.
The video is set to archive commentary from an episode of The Joy Of Painting with Bob Ross.
It shows Banksy picking up and carrying a ladder, then picking out spray cans, in the dark.
Banksy places a stencil for the piece of the wall of Reading Prison and sprays it with paint.
Reading Prison is renowned as the location where Oscar Wilde served two years’ hard labour for ‘gross indecency’.
Although the site closed to prisoners in 2013, its future is currently the focus of fierce debate.
Reading Borough Council was due to submit its bid for the site to the Ministry of Justice by Monday.
There are fears that if the bid is unsuccessful, the Grade II-listed site could be sold to property developers.
The campaign to turn the site into an arts hub has won the support of Stephen Fry, Dame Judi Dench, Sir Kenneth Branagh, Natalie Dormer and Kate Winslet.
A spokesman for Reading Borough Council said at the time the piece was confirmed: ‘We are thrilled that Banksy appears to have thrown his support behind the Council’s desire to transform the vacant Reading Gaol into a beacon of arts, heritage and culture with this piece of artwork he has aptly called Create Escape.’
Wilde was jailed after being convicted of gross indecency in 1895 following a retrial and later penned his final published work The Ballad Of Reading Gaol.
Reading Borough Council and the Ministry of Justice have been approached for comment.