A French policeman who intervened during the 2015 terror attack on the Bataclan concert hall in Paris was overcome with emotion when he and his team found a stolen work in Italy by famed British street artist Banksy commemorating the victims, his colleague said Thursday.
The image of a girl in mourning was painted on one of the emergency doors of the Parisian venue, where Islamic State gunmen massacred 90 people. It had been cut out and taken in 2019.
Italian and French police found it on Wednesday in the attic of a small farmstead in the Abruzzo region in central Italy, rented by a Chinese family.
Officers said the family did not appear to be connected to the crime.
Christophe Cengig from the Organised Crime Unit at the French embassy in Rome told AFP that an unnamed colleague who had seen victims gunned down in Paris had been at the scene when the work was found.
"It was a very emotional moment for my colleague. We've known each other for 20 years. He intervened at the Bataclan attack. What he saw inside, such tragedy, all those bodies... This is a huge achievement for him," Cengig said.
"Coming here, finding it (the work)? it has a strong symbolic and emotional value, so we're very, very, very happy".
There was forensic work to be done and the door would need to be transported carefully, "but it's going back to France".
- 'In good condition' -
Works by Banksy, known for their distinctive style, irreverent humour and thought-provoking themes, have been found on walls, buildings and bridges from the West Bank to post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans.
At auction, they have sold for more than one million dollars.
The girl in mourning was created when the artist "blitzed" the French capital with murals during a whirlwind 2018 trip, which he said was to mark the 50th anniversary of the Paris student uprising of 1968.
"The work was found under a roof, in an attic, leaning against a wall," Italian police colonel Emanuele Mazzotta said.
"It appears to be in good condition".
The police said the farmstead was owned by an Italian, but they were not able to provide any further details during an ongoing investigation.
The Messaggero daily said Thursday that the police were looking into an Franco-Italian band of criminals, and that the farmstead was owned by an Italian who was born in France. He may not be connected to the gang, it said.
Banksy is believed to have started out as a graffiti artist in London, although he has kept his identity a secret.
The portion of the Bataclan door is not the only of his works to have been stolen from Paris.
They included a mural of a businessman in a suit offering a dog a bone, having just sawed the animal's leg off, and an image of a masked rat wielding a box cutter, which disappeared from outside the Pompidou Centre.
Some of the stolen works have since been recovered and fans have covered some of his Paris street art with Plexiglass to protect them.
The image of a girl in mourning was painted on one of the emergency doors of the Bataclan theatre in Paris
Some of Banksy's Paris works, like this, have been stolen