The law lecturer who launched 'a war against crap' in Madame Tussauds

As a law lecturer well versed in the distinctions between criminal damage and public protest, James Anstice knew exactly what would happen to him if he carried out his mission to take his "war against crap" to Madame Tussauds.

As a law lecturer well versed in the distinctions between criminal damage and public protest, James Anstice knew exactly what would happen to him if he carried out his mission to take his "war against crap" to Madame Tussauds.

Even as he entered the room containing a nativity scene depicting David and Victoria Beckham as Joseph and Mary with George Bush looking on as one of the Three Wise Men, Anstice admitted yesterday, he knew that there was no justification for vandalism.

But such was his disgust while visiting the celebrity-strewn tableau at the famous London waxworks museum on 12 December that the God-fearing academic conducting a "war against crap" could no longer reconcile his intellect with his faith.

Within 30 seconds of stepping over the rope protecting the display, Anstice had pushed the figure of the England football captain to the ground and ripped off the head of Mrs Beckham's mannequin before dropping it on the floor, where it smashed to pieces.

Appearing at Bow Street magistrates' court in central London yesterday, the lecturer accepted that his religious convictions had led to a criminal one when he admitted a single charge of causing criminal damage costing £2,500.

Anstice, from Northamptonshire, who has taught at Northampton College and at the King Henry VIII College in Coventry, insisted that his actions had neither been those of a "militant Christian" nor a personal vendetta against the Real Madrid galactico and his pop star wife whom many in the nation already love to loathe.

Speaking outside the court, Anstice said: "I have nothing against David and Victoria Beckham - I have no opinion of them really. I am certainly not a nutter who's going to start stalking them. It was the combining of celebrity with religion that I found so offensive. Jesus was born in poverty and it was an absolutely absurd representation.

"I have done my bit in the war against crap but I do not think I am going to get involved in any more protests."

The attacktook place after furious public debate about the suitability of the festive scene, which showed the Beckhams standing by a crib, with the pop singer Kylie Minogue hovering above them as an angel. Mr Bush, as one of the Magi, was accompanied by Tony Blair and the Duke of Edinburgh. The tableau had been chosen on the basis of suggestions by visitors to the museum, one of the most popular attractions in Britain. But it caused outrage among religious leaders and commentators. The Vatican described the scene as "certainly in very poor taste" while the Daily Mail spluttered that it was "tawdry and vulgar".

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, head of the Roman Catholic church in England and Wales, said: "It seems incredible that Christianity, particularly Christmas, is displayed in a way that is so tasteless. To have a special part of Christianity depicted in this way seems to me to be not just disrespectful to Christians, it is also disrespectful to the heritage of Britain and also does damage to the culture of this country."

Anstice told the court yesterday that he felt the only way to resolve the situation was through direct action.

On the Sunday of the attack he travelled by train from his home in West Haddon, near Coventry, before queuing to pay his £21.99 entrance fee.

The court heard he then waited for a group of children to pass the exhibit before climbing over the barrier, attacking it and fleeing the scene via a flight of back stairs. The damaged display was removed for repair but did not return in time for 3 January, when it was scheduled to be dismantled.

Despite his years steeped in the intricacies of criminal law and jurisprudence, the lecturer showed little knowledge of how to escape a crime without punishment. He was caught on closed-circuit television inside the museum and police traced him using the credit card he used to pay for his ticket, the court heard.

District Judge Daphne Wickham, who said that the lecturer had been "moved to act in this way", sentenced him to a 12-month conditional discharge and ordered him to pay £100 in damages to the museum.

Mr Anstice remained combative about the reasons for his desire to abandon his learning and smash up waxwork celebrities in the name of faith.

He said: "It was very difficult to know what to do. I cannot justify vandalism. There had been very large protests but Madame Tussauds weren't doing anything to review that or respect that.

"No church gave me blessing to do what I did but there did not seem to be another way of protesting. I apologise to the court but I find it very difficult to apologise from my heart to Madame Tussauds."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
tech
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
life
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Voices
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions