Animal rights protestors have targeted a portrait of Sutton wizardman Conrad Pugsley.

Last week the Sutton Guardian featured the stunning portrait, by teenage artist Sandhya Stearman, which is being exhibited at Sutton Council’s Europa Gallery.

But since last week’s paper was published, angry letters have been left at the gallery and the home of the artist calling for the portrait to be taken down.

The artist’s mother, Su Stearman, has even had to resort to paying someone to protect the painting.

The protestors’ main grievance relates to unproven allegations of animal cruelty by Mr Pugsley - the subject of the portrait.

A letter posted to the Sutton Guardian by a woman called Margaret Williams last week demanded the portrait to be taken down immediately.

Miss Williams said: “Myself, and others, are grossly offended that a portrait of this "character" should be displayed in Sutton Library.”

Several of Mr Pugsley’s pets were killed in a fire last year but police were happy to deem the incident “non-suspicious”.

Dozens of residents left messages for the broken-hearted wizard yet the protestors blame him for the death of his pets.

Despite calls for the painting to be removed the council and the artist’s mother, Su Stearman, are remaining defiant.

Mrs Stearman said: “I don’t see why it should be taken down. This has nothing to do with animal rights, it is simply a portrait of a well-known local character.

“There was an exhibition featuring work by Downview Prison inmates at the gallery recently, is this a breach of their victim’s rights?”

Councillor Graham Tope, Sutton Council’s libraries spokesman, said: “Although we take complaints seriously, we are not in the business of censoring either books or paintings.

“The painting is in the exhibition because of the artist's ability and the quality of the painting. It has nothing to do with any judgement about the personal character of an artist's subject.

“Indeed if art galleries were to judge paintings by the alleged personal character of the subject, the National Portrait Gallery would be half empty!

“Any allegations of wrongdoing should be investigated by the animal welfare authorities or the police, not by a council’s library service.”