Bum deal for Iraq souvenir hunters
Published 11/10/2011 | 18:02
A former SAS hero is selling a unique souvenir of the day Saddam Hussein's regime and statue were toppled - the Iraqi dictator's bronze buttock.
Billed as a unique war art relic, the chunk of metal was brought back to Britain from Iraq by Nigel "Spud" Ely after US Marines pulled down the statue of Saddam in April 2003.
Mr Ely, who was working with a TV crew covering the fall of Baghdad, used a hammer and a crowbar to remove the buttock and paid a £385 excess baggage charge to fly the memento back to London. Now it is expected to raise thousands of pounds when it is auctioned off later this month to help injured ex-servicemen in Britain and the US.
Recalling how he "liberated" the buttock, Mr Ely said: "When we arrived in Firdos Square in the heart of Baghdad, the statue had just been toppled and the US Marines had erected a cordon of tanks to guard the square. But I wanted a piece of the statue - and when I mentioned to the marines that I was an old soldier and with the press they told me, 'No problem, buddy - help yourself'."
Finding the bronze Saddam face-down, the ex-serviceman enlisted the help of a marine armed with a crowbar and a sledgehammer to cut out half of the despot's backside.
The 52-year-old, who recently established a Derby-based company to promote so-called war relic art, admitted: "I only wanted a piece big enough to put in my pocket, but I ended up with a chunk about 2ft square. I thought, 'What the hell am I going to do with this?'
"I threw it in the back of my truck and forgot about it until we tried to re-enter Kuwait, where the Kuwaiti army arrested us and searched us for plunder. The journalists with me had all their souvenirs confiscated, but when I said the buttock was vehicle armour to protect us from bullets and bombs they left it alone.
"The real pain came when I flew back to London a few days later. I'd bought a large case from the local souk to put the bum in and had to pay a fortune in excess baggage. It's been with me all these years, but I decided it was time it did some good."
Derbyshire-based Hansons Auctioneers, which is handling the sale, expects global interest when the buttock goes under the hammer in Derby on October 27. Auctioneer Charles Hanson, a regular on BBC TV's Bargain Hunt, tipped the "piece of modern history" to realise a five-figure sum.
"It should appeal to military and art collectors alike, not to mention anyone who has an interest in the major events that have helped shape the world we live in," he said.