Downing Street has condemned London's tourist board for featuring a painting of Moors Murderer Myra Hindley in a promotional film shown at an official party celebrating the handover of the Olympic Games to the capital.
Marcus Harvey's portrait of Hindley is seen fleetingly in Visit London's three-minute film, which aimed to give a taster of the city's rich cultural life prior to the 2012 games. The row erupted after the film was shown last night at London House in Beijing, where Prime Minister Gordon Brown and London Mayor Boris Johnson were among the dignitaries attending the party to conclude the current Olympics.
"The use of this image is in extremely poor taste and it should not have been used to promote London," a Downing Street spokesman said.
"The Mayor is deeply concerned by the realisation that a shot of Myra Hindley was shown in a short video at London House and asked that it not be shown again," said a spokesman for Mr Johnson's office. "British art definitely represents some of the 'best of British', but of all the many masterpieces that could have been used this was the most regrettable and the least inspired choice," said the Liberal Democrat Olympics spokesman Tom Brake.
Others went further. "It is a total disgrace. This proud night for Britain has been sullied by this grotesque representation of London. Clearly, whoever was responsible must be found and fired immediately," a senior Government source told Sky News. Visit London stood by their inclusion of the image, which is one of a number of artworks featured in the video.
"This is a general three-minute video of London in which an artwork by Marcus Harvey very fleetingly appears. The video is not for general public use and has been used many times over the last few years to show to the tourism trade.
"There has never been a complaint made about the video up until this point. However, if any offence has been caused, we will withdraw it from use with immediate effect. Harvey's portrait, called Myra, has caused controversy since he unveiled it in 1995.
The picture of the convicted murderer, who with her lover Ian Brady was jailed for life for the killings of four children in 1963 and 1964, is made up of children's handprints. It was vandalised with ink and eggs while on show as part of the Royal Academy's Sensation exhibition in 1997.
Hindley, who was jailed in 1966 for her part in the killings, died in 2002 of a chest infection following a heart attack. She was 60.