Real identity of Banksy graffiti rival King Robbo revealed after his death

07:30 07 August 2014

The scene of the Banksy-King Robbo feud beside Regent

The scene of the Banksy-King Robbo feud beside Regent's Canal, as it looks today. Picture: Polly Hancock.


The real identity of an underground graffiti artist who had a year-long feud with stencil artist Banksy in Camden has been revealed, a week after his death.

King Robbo, whose true identity was kept secret from the public for nearly three decades, has been named as John Robertson following his death aged 45 on Thursday last week.

He had been in a vegetative state since he was found lying in the street outside his King’s Cross flat with head injuries in April 2011.

Yesterday, St Pancras Coroners’ Court, which is set to open an inquest into King Robbo’s death, confirmed his real name as John Robertson.

He made global headlines in 2009 when world-famous stencil artist Banksy defaced one of his most historic works on a wall beside 
Regent’s Canal, beneath the British Transport Police headquarters in Camden Road, Camden Town.

This led to a series of tit-for-tat overpaintings from the two artists on the wall, originally sprayed by King Robbo in 1984, over the following year.

Graffiti artist Doze, 48, a close friend and one of the founders of King Robbo’s original graffiti crew, said: “He’s probably the most prolific and respected British graffiti artist ever.

“The feud will go down as one of the most important times in modern art. Graffiti is now recognised and talked about in the art world whereas previously it was criminalised.”

King Robbo’s death was announced by his crew Team Robbo on their website last week and was followed by a tribute on Banksy’s website which read: “ROBBO WRH WD PFB – R.I.P”.

The feud with Banksy, which brought King Robbo out of retirement, became the subject of a Channel 4 documentary filmed shortly before his head injury.

Banksy publicly objected to the programme, Graffiti Wars, saying it inferred he might have had something to do with his rival’s accident, which the broadcaster denied.

King Robbo, who is survived by his three children, passed away at a neurological centre in Hertfordshire.

A fundraising auction arranged by Team Robbo in September 2011 enabled his family to move him to the centre two years ago.

It is understood he was unable to move or speak and required 24-hour care.

“I wasn’t very happy with visiting,” said Doze. “I’d rather just remember him as he was. It’s quite traumatic, when you’ve got someone you’re so close to, to see them like that.”

Following the feud with Banksy, during which King Robbo defaced a number of Banksy works across Camden, Haringey and Islington, the graffiti artist’s profile grew and he was offered his first solo exhibitions.

Days before a major Team Robbo exhibition in Shoreditch, he was put into an induced coma after being found unconscious outside his flat with head injuries.

The causes of his injuries remain unknown but police concluded there were no suspicious circumstances.

During his career, King Robbo, like Banksy, was keen to keep his identity secret because he “knew the press would love it”, according to Doze, who insists his friend was victorious in the duel with Banksy.

“Banksy probably didn’t expect the backing and the following that we got with the Team Robbo thing,” he said. “It’s gone worldwide. I just don’t think he expected Robbo to come out on top.”

He added: “Since John passed away there’s been stuff painted in Dubai, Canada and Holland. People painting things all over the world as a tribute.

“He always said, ‘This is not just about me. This is to show people who the original pioneers are and that we won’t be forgotten.’”


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Hampstead Highgate Express visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Hampstead Highgate Express staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Hampstead Highgate Express account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

Latest News Stories

Squatters at West End Lane

Squatters are currently believed to have barricaded themselves into a former council building in West Hampstead after an eviction order was served.

London Ambulance Service has been recommended for special measures following a CQC report

The London Ambulance Service has been placed into special measures after being slammed by a health watchdog investigation as “inadequate”.

Tulip Siddiq challenged the Prime Minister in the House of Commons

Mothers’ maiden names should be listed on marriage certificates alongside fathers’ names, Hampstead and Kilburn’s MP has told Parliament.

Piers Corbyn, right, with the squatters in West Hampstead and Cllr Lorna Russell

Squatters who have occupied empty former council offices in West Hampstead will appear in court today.

Cllr Sarah Hayward

The leader at Camden Council has warned that the Chancellor’s comprehensive spending review may leave the authority struggling to carry out essential duties and place vulnerable residents at risk.

Crouch End Festival Chorus at St John's Smith Square. Photo: Emily Soppet

The Crouch End Festival Chorus is taking a deep breath and running a 12-hour sponsored singing marathon this Saturday to raise funds for a major recording project.

Flowers on Parkland Walk

Police are investigating after live ammunition was discovered in Parkland Walk.

The youth attacked the women in Parliament Hill

The parents of a woman who was robbed and sexually assaulted on Hampstead Heath stormed out of a courtroom in anger after her 16-year-old attacker was jailed for just one year.

Most read news

Property Newsletter Sign-up

Get the latest North London property news and features straight to your inbox with our regular newsletter

I am also happy to receive other emails...
Fields marked with a * are mandatory
Email Marketing by e-shot


MAC Makeup

MAC are renowned for their flawless, fabulous make up that is used worldwide by the stars. You too can have the chance to have the perfect makeup to suit your needs with £1,000 to spend on all the glam goodies you like!


You are never far from an Argos, wherever in the country you may be. They are like a magical cavern where whatever you need they seem to have it out the back behind the counter. So why not put them to the test with this great MyOffers competition to win £1000 to spend in-store.

Digital Edition

Read the Hampstead & Highgate Express e-edition today E-edition
Family Notices 24

Local business directory

Our trusted business finder