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."

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