Sculptor `carried body parts on Tube'

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AN ESTIMATED 2 million commuters use the London Underground every day. Who knows how many may have sat, unsuspecting, next to a rucksack containing an assortment of human heads, limbs and other shrivelled parts?

The sculptor Anthony-Noel Kelly regularly carried dismembered bodies on the Tube's Central Line, wrapping them in black plastic bin-liners and placing them in his rucksack, a court was told yesterday. Unknown to other passengers he transported the smuggled body parts from the Royal College of Surgeons to his home where he stored them in tea-chests.

Then, when inspiration called, the former butcher would carefully unwrap the body parts and cover them in rubber as part of a process to create "exact copy" gilt-covered sculptures.

Southwark Crown Court was told that once he was finished with the remains he would load then into the boot of a car and drive to Kent where he buried them in a 6ft deep hole,.

But yesterday the artist tried to assure the court that he treated the severed bodies with respect. "I felt if the donors were looking on, I was not insulting their body in any way," he said.

Mr Kelly, 42, and former Royal College of Surgeons lab technician Niel Lindsay, 25, both from London, deny stealing "human anatomical specimens" from the college between June 1991 and November 1994. Mr Kelly further denies dishonestly handling them.

The court has been told that after the artist was given permission to draw body parts in the college's Lincoln Inn Fields premises, he became "itchy" for something more than two-dimensional work.

He ended up paying Mr Lindsay pounds 400 to take pieces of dead bodies out of the college. He then displayed two studies of an old man's head and torso at an exhibition in London.

Under cross-examination, Mr Kelly accepted that he was granted an "exceptional degree of trust" in being allowed to sketch any of the hundreds of body parts kept in the college's museums and demonstration rooms.

He said he then learnt from Mr Lindsay that the college was holding body parts longer than the three years allowed under the terms of its Anatomy Act licence. Mr Lindsay then agreed to help him get some of the specimens to his studio so he could make moulds from them. "It was something I wanted to share. It sounds very arrogant ... although I was not certain if people would like them," said Mr Kelly.

Asked if he felt he had behaved dishonestly, he replied: "I felt the dishonesty would have been more on the part of the college ... I didn't feel I was doing anything wrong."

Mr Kelly also denied providing Mr Lindsay with a shopping list of body parts.

"Did you ever say after four right feet, `thank you Mr Lindsay, but no more right feet'? asked Andrew Campbell-Tiech, for the prosecution.

"No, I didn't find a right foot better than a left foot," replied Kelly. "I was not trying to make a human."

The trial continues.