Elephant Man statue scrapped after donations for Leicester memorial fall well short

A campaign to put up a statue of the so-called Elephant Man, Joseph Merrick, has been scrapped after it fell far short of the money needed.

Jo Vigor-Mungovin was hoping to erect the tribute in Merrick’s hometown of Leicester but said donations weren’t “even close” despite the sculptor cutting costs as much as possible.

The historian, who’s written a biography of Merrick, said it had been a “very difficult and stressful time” due to “nasty/aggressive comments on social media”.

More than £2,300 had so far been raised for the statue on a GoFundMe page, along with around £3,000 on a JustGiving page. The target was £66,000.

Merrick was born in 1862 and confined to a workhouse before escaping in his early twenties to join a ‘freak show’.

A doctor discovered him and he was admitted to the Royal London Hospital but he died in his sleep from accidental suffocation at the age of 27.

It’s believed his deformities were a result of an extremely rare disease known as Proteus syndrome.

Ms Vigor-Mungovin said she hoped to instead pay for a plaque commemorating where Merrick was born, and is also supporting a similar project in London.

A statue of Merrick is planned in Whitechapel, near the hospital that cared for him in the 1880s.

Organisers are establishing ‘Joseph’s Garden’ which aims to recognise his “personal strength and dignity in the face of prejudice and ignorance”.

On their website, they say Merrick “loved flowers but was unable to visit the Royal London Hospital’s garden during daylight as he was surrounded by mobs each time he went into the street”.

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