Who nicked London's Chopin statue and helped the spy escape?

Classical Music magazine has a lovely story about a statue of Chopin that came in from the cold.

Presented to London’s South Bank Centre by the Polish nation in 1975 as a memorial to 250 Poles who fought in the British forces during the Second World War, the statue got moved about a lot and was eventually listed as lost. It has now turned up in a storage cupboard and gone on display. Nice, eh?

photo: rhingeold.co.uk
Things often got lost on the South Bank, including at least one Steinway grand piano that was walked out by burglars through the artists entrance without the security man batting an eyelid. The one case that has never been solved is how the Soviet spy George Blake was smuggled out of the country after escaping from Wandsworth Prison in 1966, supposedly in a harp case that belonged to an East German orchestra that was playing on the South Bank.
Police came swarming all over the Royal Festival Hall, demanding if a harp case had gone missing. ‘Could be,’ said the distracted staff, ‘so much else has.’
They then asked for a harp case to put be on stage so that a Blake-sized policeman could test if he fitted in it. He did. The case was never solved.
Do let me know if you have further information. There might even be a reward in it.

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  • Sadly, I haven’t time to re-read the story right now but, as I recall “The Blake Escape” by Michael Randall and Pat Pottle (who, as they organised the thing, are probably a reliable source), Blake got out of Wandsworth by climbing over the wall using a home-made rope ladder. Not a harp in sight, let alone a bunch of Stasi fiddlers.

    The harp-case mystery is likely to remain one – it’s a myth. The authorities have never quite managed to accept that a couple of ragamuffin peaceniks (who loathed everything Blake stood for but knew also that his 40-year sentence was vindictive) could spring such a high-profile prisoner from right under their noses.

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