The enigmatic artist Banksy has at last been unmasked – by criminal profilers using techniques for tracking serial killers.
The criminologists identified the artist after years of anonymity from geoprofiling – mapping crime scenes to identify trends in data.
The technique has successfully detected terrorists, serial killers and even patient zero in epidemic outbreaks.
The team, based at the University of London, plotted Banksy’s street art and graffiti tags on a map and working on the basic assumption that people commit crime near to where they live, looked at where the trail led.
The ideal is a ring of incidents around a central point that is likely to be the target’s home.
In this case, Banksy was active in both London and Bristol.
Who is Banksy?
The team gathered their geoprofile evidence and then compared that to known information about Banksy in social media and other sources.
They discovered the artist was likely to be Robin Gunningham – who had been suspected and named as Banksy in 2008, although he failed to confirm the capture.
The team said they expected to reveal around 10 suspects from their data, but after only a short time, only Gunningham was a viable target.
Banksy’s lawyers are said to have viewed the data and report prior to publication, and although no one has commented on the ID, they agreed the scientists could publish their paper without any edits.
Only one real candidate
Banksy is well-known for his anti-establishment street art. Hundreds of works are attributed to him, but he is believed to be responsible for only a proportion of them.
One of his most recent installations was Dismaland at West super Mare, a coastal resort near Bristol. Banksy contributed 10 new works to the project, and invited more than 50 other artists to show their talents off as well.
The exhibition attracted 150,000 visitors in just a few days.
Steve Le Comber, one of the scientists who wrote the report, said: “I would have been surprised if it wasn’t Gunningham after our analysis.
“It rapidly became apparent there was only one candidate.”
The team explained the analysis was based only art works that could reliably be attributed to Banksy.