In the Media

Academic arrested after polite grafitti is found on cars

PUBLISHED August 30, 2012

A university professor has been arrested following a graffiti spree in which a surprisingly polite selection of words was scratched on to luxury cars in his neighbourhood.

Rather than the usual swearwords, tags or rude pictures, residents of an affluent suburb of Newcastle found the words "really wrong," "arbitrary" and "very silly" etched on to their vehicles with a screwdriver.

But the damage was no less costly than if the words had been more offensive, totalling £20,000 across the 24 cars targeted by the culprit.

Professor Stephen Graham, of Newcastle University's School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape, was reportedly arrested and questioned by police after the incident in Northumberland Gardens, Jesmond, on Monday.

The academic, who was held on suspicion of causing criminal damage, lives in the street next to Northumberland Gardens.

The cars targeted included a Mercedes SLK, BMW 520, a BMW X5 and a Land Rover.

The vandalism came to light when a resident spotted a man in black shorts and a black jacket crouching down beside a car.

One resident of Northumberland Gardens, who did not want to be named, said: "We wondered if it had anything to do with planning rows.

"There is an issue over restricted parking on nearby streets, so people have been bringing cars over to park around here."

Mary Barrett, a retired psychologist who lives in nearby Ripon Gardens, found her silver Mercedes E270 had had the word "arbitrary" scratched into the paintwork in six-inch high capitals.

She said: "I felt sick when I saw it, I was close to tears. You work your whole life and you think you will treat yourself to something nice and then something like this happens. I'd only had the car for two months."

Northumbria Police said in a statement: "A man has been arrested after cars were damaged in Jesmond.

"At 1.15am on Monday August 27, a report was received that a man was damaging cars in Northumberland Gardens, Jesmond.

"Officers attended and found 24 cars had sustained damage in the area. Further enquiries revealed that the vehicles were damaged by a screwdriver which had been used to etch words into the bodywork.

"A 47 year-old man was arrested for criminal damage and bailed pending further enquires."