I’ve written previously about Tony Anthony, founder of Avanti ministries. He wrote a book called Taming the Tiger which outlines his former life in Kung Fu, and how he came to turn his life around.
Trouble is, parts of his story just don’t add up. He’s supposedly a world champion, but apparently just the world champion of something so obscure that it doesn’t show up under google.
Or all those years he spent having Cantonese beaten into him, yet he can only say a few words of Mandarin – and read practically no Chinese at all, even characters he should be extremely familiar with.
Well, it seems that the truth is finally catching up. Here’s some extracts:
Questions were asked about the authenticity of Taming the Tiger ever since it was first published in 2004. Critics were quick to point out that it reads like a work of fiction; and now an intensive investigation by a group of church leaders suggests that it is just that.
The investigation began after Mike Hancock resigned from his post as a director of Avanti Ministries Ltd, the charitable company set up by Anthony to support his work. Hancock had asked for proof of Tony Anthony’s claims but was met with evasion. “I understood that I had a moral and ethical responsibility to ensure that his story could be thoroughly verified. I was unable to persuade my fellow directors of the need to do this. I therefore resigned from Avanti and pursued the search for truth with other like-minded Christians,” he said.
It’s incredible that his evasions did not trigger red flags with other members of the board.
As a result of the evidence obtained by the church leaders, the Evangelical Alliance launched a formal inquiry which is due to report any time now.
The informal investigators began by rebutting claims made by Anthony in his book.
One of the long-standing objections raised about Tony Anthony’s story is that there is no record, anywhere, to support claims that he won any Kung Fu competition; let alone that he was three-times world champion. Anthony attempts to deal with this criticism on his website, saying: “The competitions that Tony Anthony took part in are over 200 years old – and they are derived from the lineage of ‘Gong So’ who goes back to the Manchu Dynasty. These competitions are held in mainland China and as they are so specialised Tony Anthony have not known them to be publicised outside of the relevant circles, which is another reason why Tony Anthony doubt very much that you would ever find these competitions advertised on a Google search engine.”
Yet in the book, it’s hinted that these competitions are quite the opposite – crass and commercial and not a real indication of one’s skill. In fact, some people who’ve approached him claim he says these competitions were illegal backstreet completions.
But scrutiny of the book’s text reveals that many of the passages detailing Kung Fu techniques were copied, wholesale, from a specialist martial arts website. One passage is lifted from a book about Bruce Lee.
I noted myself how parts read like Mr Lee’s wikipedia page.
But Tony Anthony’s story really came apart when the investigators discovered his true identity: he was born Andonis Andreou Athanasiou on 30 July 1971 in London’s University College Hospital. Tony Anthony has now confirmed that this is his true identity.
Having ascertained his true identity the investigators discovered that Tony Anthony could not have been taken to China by his Kung Fu grandfather when he was four: Anthony’s grandfather was a laundry worker in Cardiff who later owned a café in Streatham. He died seven years before Anthony was born.
But many of these details would have been hard to check. However, there’s some material that should have been obvious to check – at least in hindsight.
In the book’s version of the accident, Anthony says that he thought he had hit a “small deer or fox” that had “limped back into the undergrowth” because he had stopped his car and couldn’t see anything on the road.
He says that when he was questioned by police, “We couldn’t tell our story fast enough. No more lies. We were both desperate to spill out details of the dreadful accident. I couldn’t care less about the interrogation. I wanted to die. All I could think about was the woman I had killed.”
But news reports of the police investigation, inquest and trial reveal a very different picture. The woman who died was Elizabeth Bracewell, a 39-year-old girl-guide helper, and sister of the former Everton, Newcastle, Fulham and England footballer Paul Bracewell.
She was discovered in plain view in the middle of the road by a motorist who saw Anthony’s car speed off. And far from admitting the story, Tony Anthony and his wife Sarah told a series of lies and pleaded not guilty when they first appeared in court.
They were both sentenced for perverting the course of justice. The judge, Mr Recorder Stevenson, described Tony Anthony as a “devious and manipulative man” who had “deliberately embroidered his story” to throw police off the scent.
While it could have been difficult to check if he was born where he said he was, and impossible to find out what he might have done while in China, it should have been much easier to get full details of this court case.
But there’s even more basic red-flags than that. This is a guy who, by his own admission, has murdered people. Again, by his own admission He never served time for those killings.
That this fake has spent so long taking money from honest people is a wake-up call. All the signs were there, but no one was willing to ask the hard questions.
Thanks to the reader who emailed the tip.