Authorities in London have appealed to the public for information after several witnesses reported seeing a man, believed to be a middle-aged Chinese tourist, ‘defecate on the tomb of Karl Marx’ in Highgate Cemetery.
According to reports by several British newspapers, the man suspected of the deed was part of a tour group that were visiting the cemetery, which is also the final resting place of an assortment of well-known figures, including author Douglas Adams, Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko, and Malcolm McLaren, the original manager of the Sex Pistols.
One witness who spoke to the press claimed that he had just entered the section of Highgate Cemetery where Karl Marx’s tomb is located before he immediately observed the tourist. “I was annoyed at first by the fact that you had to pay an extra four quid [US$5.20] to get into the area that has Marx’s tomb; I mean, the irony of that is just brilliant. As soon as I got near the tomb, I was shocked to see a guy squatting behind it and [defecating] onto the grass.”
Another witness, who is a Mandarin speaker, claimed to have heard some dialogue between the man and other tour group members before the incident occurred. “He asked them where the nearest toilet was, but after a quick glance around everybody just shook their heads. He said ‘Fine, I’ll just go behind here then’, and proceeded to drop his trousers in full view of all present before carrying out his business.”
The incident is just the latest in a string of controversies involving the tomb of Karl Marx. In 1970, an unknown individual or group of conspirators attempted to blow up the bust of Marx’s head that sits on top of the tomb. The plan involved ‘sawing off Marx’s nose and then emptying bolts, fireworks and a mixture of weedkiller and sugar into the hollow head’. However, this attempt was unsuccessful as the nose of the bust proved too tough for the culprits to cut through. They opted to instead detonate the bomb at the base of the tomb, causing minimal damage.
Earlier, in 1965, British police foiled another attempt to blow up the tomb after receiving an anonymous tip-off from a member of the public. A patrol car was despatched to the scene and discovered a crude home-made bomb, which was quickly disassembled. A more recent controversy came in 2011 when vandals threw paint over the tomb; it was soon removed by a team of professional cleaners.
It is not yet known whether this latest incident involving the defecating tourist was a deliberate attempt at sending a political message, or if it was just an innocent cultural misunderstanding. On a positive note, in contrast to the previous bombings and vandalism incidents, one British newspaper pointed out that ‘there was no lasting damage to the tomb of Karl Marx, other than a bad odor that quickly dissipated once the faeces were removed’.