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
News
Sir David Attenborough
people
Life and Style
Young girl and bowl of cereal
food + drink
News
Comic miserablist Larry David in 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'
peopleDirector of new documentary Misery Loves Comedy reveals how he got them to open up
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Sport
football
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Life and Style
David Bowie by Duffy
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Hell, yeah: members of the 369th Infantry arrive back in New York
booksWorld War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel
News
advertisingVideo: The company that brought you the 'Bud' 'Weis' 'Er' frogs and 'Wasssssup' ads, has something up its sleeve for Sunday's big match
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
i100
Environment
Dame Vivienne Westwood speaking at a fracking protest outside Parliament on Monday (AP)
environment
Life and Style
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness