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EDITIONS
 Wednesday, 22 January, 2003, 15:51 GMT
Thatcher statue decapitator guilty
Statue of Baroness Thatcher minus head
The first attempt to knock off the head failed
A protester who knocked the head off a marble statue of Baroness Thatcher has been found guilty of criminal damage.

Theatre producer Paul Kelleher, 37, has been warned that he faces prison after his attack on the statue last July with a metal bar.

Kelleher told police he felt driven to behead the 8ft statue as soon as he heard it was going on show at London's Guildhall.

He felt the 150,000 statue represented the ills of the world's political system, Southwark Crown Court heard.

Prison obviously has to be an option

Judge George Bathurst-Norman
He hit the statue with a cricket bat first but when that caused no damage he used a metal bar.

His second blow to the work of art's "big nose" severed the statue at the neck, the jury was told.

The court heard once his "act of vandalism" had been carried out, he waited quietly by the statue of the former prime minister for his inevitable arrest.

When police arrived minutes later he said: "I think it looks better like that."

'Publicity stunt'

Guy Ladenburg, prosecuting, said: "Not surprisingly police didn't agree with this last assertion of his and arrested him for criminal damage."

Paul Kelleher arriving at court
Paul Kelleher waited for police after hitting the statue
Mr Ladenburg said press reports triggered a "keen interest" on Kelleher's part, "not as an avid fan of the former prime minister, nor as an admirer of sculpture.

"It represented for him an ill-conceived publicity stunt."

Kelleher of Loring Road, Isleworth, west London, did not deny attacking the statue when interviewed, but had pleaded not guilty to one count of criminal damage claiming that he had a "lawful excuse".

Judge George Bathurst-Norman told him: "I'm not going to deal with you today. I'm going to order a pre-sentence report.

"I am making no promises as to how I am going to deal with you, because prison obviously has to be an option."

Kelleher, who was allowed bail and told to return to court on 19 February, replied: "Fair enough, sir."

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  BBC LDN's Gareth Furby reports
"He thought he had a lawful excuse for such behaviour"
  Tony Banks MP
"I think this is the right decision"

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