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 Wednesday, 22 January, 2003, 14:05 GMT
Thatcher statue protester 'felt driven'
Statue of Baroness Thatcher minus head
The first attempt to knock off the head failed

A protester decapitated a 150,000 statue of Baroness Thatcher because he felt it represented the ills of the world's political system, a court has heard.

Paul Kelleher, 37, told police he felt driven to carry out the public beheading as soon as he heard the 2.4-metre (eight foot) Italian marble statue was going on show at London's Guildhall.

After an initial "recce", Mr Kelleher returned on 3 July last year with a cricket bat under his raincoat.

The likeness of the former prime minister, nicknamed the "Iron Lady", withstood the first blows and Mr Kelleher was forced to use a metal pole from a nearby crowd control barrier.

London's Southwark Crown Court heard that a well-aimed blow to the artwork's "big nose", sent everything from the neck upwards sailing through the air.

Mr Kelleher, of Loring Road, Isleworth, west London, who never disputed what he did when interviewed by police, denies criminal damage.

Publicity stunt

Guy Ladenburg, prosecuting, said the statue was commissioned for 50,000 from sculpture Neil Simmons in 1998.

A large block of marble was bought and shipped over from Italy for 23,000.

The work, all of which was by hand, took eight months and it was now valued at 150,000.

Mr Ladenburg said press reports about the work seemed to trigger a "keen interest" on Mr Kelleher's part.

He saw his moment and seized it, running at the statue with his cricket bat and landing a blow on its head

Guy Ladenburg
He said this was "not as an avid fan of the former prime minister, nor as an admirer of sculpture" but "it represented for him an ill conceived publicity stunt".

Mr Keheller told officers after he was arrested that he knew he would "have to come... and take off its head".

On the day of the attack Mr Kelleher arranged a baby sitter for his son and bought a Slazenger V600 cricket bat.

Once in the gallery he waited for his "window of opportunity".

Mr Ladenburg said: "He was anxious not to cause any anxiety or stress to any passing art lover.

"Eventually he saw his moment and seized it, running at the statue with his cricket bat and landing a blow on its head.

"Mr Kelleher was an Englishman armed with a cricket bat and inevitably destined to fail. In his words the bat just 'pinged off'."

False idols

The court heard that it prompted the defendant to pick up the crowd control barrier pole and resume his assault.

The statue decapitated, Mr Kelleher waited quietly for his inevitable arrest.

Paul Kelleher
Paul Kelleher warned against false idols
When police arrived minutes later he said: "I think it looks better like that."

In a later police interview, Mr Kelleher said he had "nothing against Mrs Thatcher as a person", although he had not agreed with the way she "jumped into bed" with America when in power.

Pointing out that the Bible warned against idols, he felt there was a danger people might end up bowing down to this "Conservative statue".

Mr Ladenburg reminded the jury: "If you as jurors take the slightest account of your personal or political views of Mrs Thatcher, or of your general philosophy or personal affinities, you abandon the solemn oath you took."

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  BBC London's Karl Mercer
"This is what happens when a cricket bat and an iron bar meet 150,000-worth of marble statue."

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