IT is the question that has baffled internet sleuths for decades: who is Banksy?
If you ask a Bristolian, they might tell you he regularly downs pints at the Full Moon, or that he was the best artist football team Easton Cowboys ever had in goal.
But when it comes to definitive proof, the search for the man behind some of the world's most iconic artwork has left investigators dumbfounded.
This week, it emerged that the elusive social commentator may, however, finally be forced to show his face after he was named as a defendant in a legal case at the High Court.
Graffiti pioneer Andrew Gallagher filed a lawsuit accusing 'The Artist Known as "Banksy"' of defamation, with the co-defendant also named as Pest Control Ltd – the company that sells his artwork.
While Gallagher's lawyers told the Mail that details surrounding the case were "confidential" , a court showdown could nonetheless reveal the man behind the mask for the first time.
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Since the early 1990s, a number of glamorous – and often far-fetched – identities have been floated, including Massive Attack singer Robert
Del Naja, Gorillaz man Jamie Hewlett and even Art Attack host Neil Buchanan.
But one name that looms larger than most is that of a comparatively low-key "guerrilla" artist, Robin Gunningham.
Man behind the mask?
The proud Bristolian has been flagged in a number of landmark investigations over the years – most notably when scientists from Queen Mary University used geographical profiling to link him to graffiti found in Jamaica in 2008.
Key to the case was a photograph of the now 50-year-old, which showed him in a pair of baggy jeans, an oversized dark blue button up with a set of mischievous glasses on.
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As he knelt down in his streetwise kit, he appeared to be surrounded by a smoking gun – stencils, a sketchbook and spray cans.
Yet the trail ran cold. Banksy denied the picture was him, as did Robin's parents.
However, the picture had a striking resemblance to a weedy, bespectacled lad who featured in the Bristol Cathedral School year book in 1989.
This pointed sleuths towards Robin's early years attending the £9,000-a-year West Country public school – from which point his life seemed to mirror Banksy's path at every turn.
Born a Bristolian
The son of Peter Gordon Gunningham, a Bristol contracts manager, and Pamela Ann Dawkin-Jones, who was raised in the posh area of Clifton and worked as a secretary for a corporate director, Robin was destined to be an artist from a young age.
Former schoolmate Scott Nurse said: "He was one of three people in my year who were extremely talented at art.
"He did lots of illustrations. I’m not at all surprised if he truly is Banksy.
"He was also in the house rugby team, and I think he played hockey too."
He is believed to have been born in 1973 at Bristol Maternity Hospital and, according to neighbours, had early surgery for a cleft palate.
Anthony Hallett, who lived nearby, remembered the family fondly.
He told the Mail: "The family was always very nice. I don’t know for sure, but I think Robin was working as a graffiti artist.
"He worked for other people and would disappear for months on end – he was quite nomadic.
"I would not go as far as to say he fell off the rails. However, there was some sort of rift in the family, probably because he didn’t turn out quite as they hoped. He just disappeared after he left home."
Robin reportedly left school at 16. Around that time he adopted the name "Robin Banks", but was still making a name for himself in his hometown of Easton.
He was also a goalkeeper for the Easton Cowboys and Cowgirls – an amateur football team in the east of the city.
A BBC dispatch described the side as "Britain's most intrepid sport club", formed by a group of young local lads who got sick of kickabouts in the early 90s.
Will Simpson, a club stalwart, said Robin fielded many sessions before he became a renowned artist.
Will said: "He went on tour with us to Mexico in 2001 and painted a number of murals in the community.
"He did one tour and shortly after, he might have moved to London.
"We see him every so often when he comes back to Bristol."
Not long after the Mexico tour, Robin became involved in Bristol's burgeoning underground art scene.
It was around this time that 'Banksy' first rose to prominence as part of an art trio named DryBreadZ Crew – photographed by his long-time pal and agent Steve Lazarides.
According to his best-selling book Wall and Piece, the artist moved to London at the turn of the millennium.
Robin, meanwhile, was living in a flat in Hackney, East London, with Jamie Eastman, who worked for Bristol’s Hombre record label.
Coincidentally, Banksy is said to have drawn a number of the record company’s album covers.
In 2001, the rising street star had his first exhibition in Shoreditch, but it was a couple of years later when his Turf War show marked him out as one of the art world's most subversive masterminds.
Banksy went on to create dozens of world-famous pieces, including The Girl with Balloon, which was infamously shredded at a Sotheby's aucition in London before selling for a record $25.4million.
In 2010, he released his documentary film Exit Through the Gift Shop, which was nominated for an Academy Award.
He even tried his hand at theme park design in 2015, creating 'Dismaland'n Weston-super-Mare, whichwas filled with wacky art installations and billed as the “unhappiest place on Earth”.
Since he was first linked with Banksy 15 years ago, Robin has maintained a steadfast silence – as has his his wife, Joy Millward.
Joy, from the West Midlands, is believed to have met Robin in 2003, just before she started working as a researcher for Labour MP Austin Mitchell.
The couple got hitched in Las Vegas three years later, with a source later explaining they lived in an isolated community but had "little to do with even their closest neighbours".
The source told the Mail: "Even those they occasionally speak to have no idea who they really are.
"The only people who know his real identity are those in the inner circle, who have been vetted.
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"Some of Joy’s relatives have not been told who her husband is or what he does."
If 'The artist known as Banksy' is finally paraded before the courts, they may finally get their answer.
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