CREATING sculptures out of snatched body parts may well be art, but it is also a crime, as Anthony-Noel Kelly discovered yesterday when he was sentenced to nine months in prison in a landmark court case.
The 42-year-old nephew of the Duke of Norfolk aspired to be a new Leonardo da Vinci. But sentencing him at Southwark Crown Court, London, Judge Geoffrey Rivlin QC, said the theft of human remains "was revolting, an affront against every reasonable concept of decent behaviour. The offence was a gross breach of trust".
At the end of an extraordinary trial the jury had taken seven hours to find Kelly and his accomplice Niel Lindsay guilty of the theft of human remains donated to the Royal College of Surgeons. Lindsay, who had smuggled "shrivelled" dismemberments out of the college, received a six-month sentence suspended for two years.
The police investigation into the affair began after a report about Kelly's artistic endeavours in the Independent on Sunday.
Kelly and Lindsay made legal history as the first bodysnatchers in Britain to be convicted of "stealing" human remains following Judge Rivlin's ruling that dead bodies can be subject to ownership and therefore subject to theft. In the past, bodysnatchers had been charged with the offence of outraging public decency.
Lawyers for the two men said they would be taking the matter to the Court of Appeal to reverse the new rulings and overturn the convictions. The judge refused to release Kelly on bail pending the outcome of the appeal.
Kelly and Lindsay, a former undertaker's embalmer and junior technician at the RCS, had stolen up to 40 body parts, many of which were produced in court as evidence. Among the haul were three heads, three torsos, parts of a brain, six arms and an assortment of legs and feet. Kelly carried the remains away from the RCS in his rucksack, often travelling on the Tube back to his home in Clapham, south London. Some of the body parts were buried in the grounds of his family's estate at Romden Castle in Kent. Other parts were kept at the London home of a female friend, and one leg was stored in his attic.
Kelly, a former sculpture tutor at the Prince of Wales's Institute of Architecture, placed a price tag of pounds 4,500 on two silver-gilded studies of an old man's head and torso. He had paid Lindsay pounds 400 for his assistance. However, the court was told his finances were "very precarious indeed".
Maestro of the macabre, page 9
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