Gardener's cash crop of stolen pictures

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The Independent Online
A landscape gardener cut hundreds of pictures from libraries' rare antique books worth up to pounds 289,000, a court was told yesterday.

Joseph Bellwood, who has been banned from going into any library until his case has been dealt with, sold or swapped them making up to pounds 37,000, Southwark Crown Court in south London was told by Martin Hicks, for the prosecution. Bellwood, 43, of Swillington, West Yorkshire, has admitted 12 sample charges of theft and damaging property between January 1994 and June 1995.

Mr Hicks told Judge Mota Singh that the value of the books involved had been estimated at pounds 189,000-pounds 289,000. He said 1,149 plates, illustrations and prints had been stolen, mostly from the British Library, the London Library, Leeds Central Library and Birmingham Central Library, of which 439 had been recovered or traced.

Justin Shale, for the defence, said the value of the books involved and the amount his client was said to have made were disputed. He said the volumes were worth pounds 100,000 and Mr Bellwood's benefit pounds 16,000. He asked for an eight-week adjournment so these matters could be dealt with. The judge agreed to continue bail.