County Durham man 'mutilated' stolen Shakespeare folio

Raymond Scott Mr Scott denies theft, handling stolen goods and removing criminal property

A jobless book dealer who posed as an international playboy "mutilated" a stolen £3m first edition of Shakespeare's works, a court has heard.

Raymond Scott, 53, of Wingate, County Durham, is accused of taking the folio from Durham University in 1998.

The prosecution at Newcastle Crown Court said he damaged it to hide the fact that it was stolen.

He denies three charges of theft, handling stolen goods and removing criminal property.

The investigation began in the United States after Mr Scott walked into the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC with the 400-year-old book.

He claimed to have discovered it at a friend's house in Cuba and asked for it to be verified as genuine.

Experts suspected the book was stolen and called in the British Embassy, Durham Police and the FBI.

Start Quote

The truth was he lived at a house on Wigeon Close, Washington, not DC but Tyne and Wear, with his mother”

End Quote Robert Smith QC

Mr Scott, who lived with his then 80-year-old mother in Washington, Tyne and Wear, was arrested.

It is alleged he stole the folio from a secured glass cabinet in an exhibition of ancient English literature at the university's Palace Green Library.

He then kept the work, described as part of England's "cultural legacy" to the world, at the former council home he shared with his elderly mother.

In 2008 he took it to be authenticated, claiming he was the multi-millionaire son of a building contractor, the court was told.

Robert Smith QC, prosecuting, said: "He presented himself as someone doing a service to the cultural community by bringing the book in to have it identified, but he did not make it clear what he intended to do with the book.

Cuban waitress

"He told staff at the Folger Library he was staying at the Mayflower hotel in Washington DC, where he had a suite.

Title page of Shakespeare first folio The first folio was stolen in 1998

"The truth was he lived at a house on Wigeon Close, Washington, not DC but Tyne and Wear, with his mother."

The prosecution said that Mr Scott had become infatuated with a young Cuban waitress and was sending her money.

Mr Smith said: "He had been transferring to her substantial amounts of money which he could ill afford and which he had borrowed for that purpose.

"He is not a wealthy man by any means. On the contrary he was living on state benefits.

"He had credit card debts and bank liabilities of more than £90,000."

Mr Smith told the court that the Shakespeare folio had both the covers, the frontispiece, final page and binding removed in an attempt to disguise its provenance.

Experts described it as "damaged, brutalised and mutilated", but were able to tell that it was the Durham folio by its dimensions and by a handwritten note, referring to the play Troilus And Cressida.

When it was verified as genuine Mr Scott said he intended to sell it on the open market, the court heard.

The folio is regarded as one of the most important printed works in English and is valued at between £3m and £15m.

The trial continues.

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