Doncaster man arrested after Queen’s portrait defaced in Westminster Abbey

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A man arrested after defacing a portrait of The Queen with paint in Westminster Abbey is reported to be from Doncaster.

The man, believed to be a Fathers4Justice activist, is said to have attempted to write the word “help” in spray paint over the Ralph Heimans canvas, which was put on public display just last month.

The oil painting, entitled The Coronation Theatre, Westminster Abbey: A Portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, has since been taken from public display as a result of the damage.

Fathers4Justice named the suspect as father-of-two Tim Haries from Doncaster, a “desperate dad” wanting to draw attention to the issue of shared parenting.

Officers were called to the Abbey around 12.30pm today after security guards detained a 41-year-old man.

He was arrested on suspicion of criminal damage and taken to a central London police station where he remains in custody, a Metropolitan Police spokesman said.

An Abbey spokesman said: “In an incident at lunchtime today, a visitor to the Abbey sprayed paint on the Ralph Heimans portrait of the Queen presently on display in the Chapter House.

“Until work can be done to remedy the damage it will, very regrettably, not be possible to have the painting on public view.”

The portrait was designed to commemorate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and had only been on display in the Chapter House for a few weeks before it was vandalised with paint.

Fathers4Justice said the suspect was a “desperate dad” wanting to draw attention to the issue of shared parenting, and had attempted to write the word “help” on the portrait as part of a “Father’s Day protest”.

Campaign director Jolly Stanesby said it wasn’t an official group protest, but added: “He (the suspect) has tried all other avenues. On the run-up to Father’s Day (this Sunday) he decided nobody was willing to listen.”

Mr Stanesby said campaigners had been invited to a meeting at the House of Commons earlier this week to discuss their plight with MPs, but only four parliamentarians turned up.

Asked why the Queen’s portrait was chosen, Mr Stanesby said: “She’s head of the country - her badge is on every family court in this country.”

The painting itself measures 9ft by 11ft and depicts the monarch in the Sacrarium of Westminster Abbey, also known as the Coronation Theatre.

The painting was shown publicly for the first time in September by the Australian governor-general Quentin Bryce at the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra.

It was moved to London and put on display in the Abbey last month.

The artist, who is based in London, had a sitting with the Queen at Buckingham Palace on March 21 last year, but the scene is an imagined one, set at night in Westminster Abbey.

Mr Heimans said at the time of its first public unveiling: ‘’Through the narrative of the portrait I wanted to produce a work of particular significance for the Diamond Jubilee.

“By representing the Queen as she reflects on this incredible milestone in her life, I wanted to explore the dynamic between her public role and the personal, emotional dimension.”

The work depicts the Queen in a moment of solitary reflection, standing at the centre circle of the Cosmati pavement, on the exact spot she was crowned.

A spokesman for Mr Heimans said the artist was “aware of the incident”, but would not be commenting further.