A portrait of Queen Elizabeth II was defaced with spray paint Thursday at London’s Westminster Abbey, and police arrested a man at the church on suspicion of vandalism.
Fathers 4 Justice, a protest group that campaigns on behalf of fathers denied contact with their children, said the arrested man was a member. It said he had written “Help” with paint on the picture in the abbey’s Chapter House.
“It was basically a dad that was desperate to see his kids in the run-up to Father’s Day,” Fathers 4 Justice campaign director Jolly Stanesby said. “He’s decided to ask for help.”
Stanesby said the action wasn’t an official protest organized by the group.
Police said a 41-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of criminal damage and taken to a London police station.
The abbey said the painting by Australia-born artist Ralph Heimans has been removed from public view until it can be restored.
The portrait was commissioned to mark last year’s anniversary of the queen’s 60 years on the throne. It was on display until March in Australia’s National Portrait Gallery in Canberra and was recently bought by Westminster Abbey for its collection.
The 9-foot by 11-foot (2.5-meter by 3.4-meter) painting shows the monarch standing on the spot in the abbey where she was crowned.
Last week, the queen and her family attended a ceremony in the abbey to mark the 60th anniversary of her coronation there in June 1953.