Book-thief don to pay pounds 160,000

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The Independent Online
An Oxford don who paid his mortgage by selling antique books stolen from college libraries was yesterday ordered to pay pounds 160,630 compensation.

Simon Heighes, 33, a part-time music lecturer and Radio 3 presenter, stole 78 books and manuscripts over four years from Queen's College and Christ Church at Oxford University. One book was a first edition of Newton's Principia Mathematica, which had been kept in the Christ Church library for more than 300 years. Heighes sold it for pounds 65,500. The book was feared lost, but it was disclosed yesterday that it is now back with the Oxford-based book dealers Blackwell's. Heighes's barrister, Patrick Eccles QC, said the book would be returned to Christ Church.

On 16 May last year, Christ Church library reported books missing and that evening police raided Heighes's home, where eight rare books were found in a suitcase under his bed.

Trinity College School of Music in London had reported similar thefts, this time of manuscripts. Heighes, who had once worked there, admitted stealing them. He gained access to rare collections because of his privileged position as lecturer.

At Northampton Crown Court yesterday Heighes agreed to a compensation order. The court heard he had pounds 198,687 from the sale of his Oxford house and from an inheritance from his grandfather. Judge Francis Allen ordered him to pay pounds 20,895 to Christ Church; pounds 52,940 to Sotheby's of London; pounds 1,350 to Queen's College; pounds 5,200 to Trinity College, and pounds 80,245 to Blackwell's.