September 25

Irreplaceable 17th Century banister destroyed after businessman pulled it from wall of

The businessman damaged the banister (not pictured) Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. An “irreplaceable” 17th Century banister was left smashed to pieces after a businessman pulled it from the wall of a world-famous museum.Michael Fadi Said, 41, wrecked the rail when he signed into the “special” touching area at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, where visitors are encouraged to feel the displays.The relic, worth £1000, was particularly popular with the blind, who use the space to experience the art through touch, Hendon magistrates heard yesterday.The oak baluster dates from 1670-1680, and was intended to be a handrail with a spiral central section finely carved in the Restoration style.A Victoria and Albert spokeswoman told The Telegraph it would have been made by turning the wood on a special lathe, and the piece has been a part of the museum’s permanent collection for 112 years. She said: “However, it has been an important part of the display in the British Gallery as it gives visitors the chance to physically feel the quality of the work done by craftsmen three hundred years ago.“It was a particularly important part of the visitor experience for our blind guests. We run a programme of events tailored for blind and partially sighted visitors which focus on the touch objects. The businessman damaged the banister (not pictured)Credit:David M. Benett/Getty Despite admitting that it was his handwriting that signed the guestbook to gain access to this area, Said denied it was him who broke the artefact.He told police: “I’m being arrested for something I didn’t do.”  The authorities traced him using his address and signed message that he left in the V&A guest bookBut after failing to appear for trial, the businessman of Kensington, West London, was convicted of one count of criminal damage and an arrest warrant has now been issued.Angela O’Dwyer, prosecuting, said: “This item is what’s known as a ‘touching object’ – members of the public are permitted and even encouraged to touch it. But he goes much further then that and pulls it off the wall and it breaks into pieces.”Said, who currently lives in an EasyJet hotel, was convicted of assault last year and has also received a suspended jail sentence for making death threats in Croatia.He even “posed” for the CCTV cameras at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London while looking at objects in a special “touching” area, Hendon Magistrates court was told. His actions have meant that he faces a ban from the V&A and its affiliated museums once the police locate him for sentencing.Repairing the damage to the relic, which was particularly popular with both blind and disabled visitors, will require specialists.District Judge Helen Clarke said: “It’s an irreplaceable item given its age and specialist repair is going to be needed.”The museum’s spokeswoman added: “The V&A takes the security of our visitors, staff, objects, buildings, information and reputation extremely seriously.” “The information sign which accompanied the baluster was also written in braille so that blind visitors could learn more about the piece.” read more