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Man 'used shopping list in book thefts'

A Cambridge graduate drew up a "thief's shopping list" before stealing antique books worth £40,000 from a world famous library, a court heard today.

William Jacques, 41, of no fixed address, would use a false name to sign in to the Royal Horticultural Society's Lindley library in London, it is alleged.

He would leave after stuffing valuable volumes of Nouvelle Iconographies des Camellias by Ambroise Verschaffelt under a tweed jacket he would always wear on such visits, jurors heard.

Gino Connor, for the Crown, told Southwark Crown Court that Jacques pre-planned the theft of the rare volumes.

"We are not dealing with Penguin books, we are dealing with very valuable books," he said.

Mr Connor added that the crime was a "systematic, carefully planned theft committed by a man who knew precisely what he was doing".

Jacques, the prosecutor said, was highly intelligent, studied at Cambridge and was a member of both the British Library and the London Library.

"He had an understanding of rare and valuable books," Mr Connor added.

The defendant is alleged to have taken the books some time between June 2004 - when an audit of the books was last undertaken - and March 2007.

During that period he would regularly visit the Lindley Library in Vincent Square, central London.

It holds books, journals, pictures and art on practical gardening, garden history, plants and design dating back to 1514.

Staff started to become suspicious after noticing that Jacques would always wear the same clothes - a tweed jacket and glasses - the court heard.

Mr Connor said that on one occasion the defendant "was seen to place something inside his jacket and walk away with his left arm stiff against his jacket as if holding something".

The prosecutor added: "It was rather crude, but it was effective."

He told the jury that Jacques always signed in when visiting the library, when he had both arms free. But he never signed out, the court heard.

Staff called police to the Library on April 2, 2007, after noticing Jacques in the building, the court heard.

On being challenged by officers and staff, he is alleged to have said: "I do not know nothing about this," adding: "Do you have any evidence?".

Police found that the suspect had with him a card for London's Senate House library in the name of "Santoro", it is alleged. It is the same name he used to sign in to the Lindley Library, the prosecution claimed.

Police also found an A4 piece of paper with the names of 70 volumes of rare books, all kept at the library.

Mr Connor said the document amounted to a "thief's shopping list".

The books on the piece of paper were listed in sequential order as to where they could be found in the library.

Notes were also made as to their valuation and whether they included maps and plates - which the prosecution told jurors could be removed and sold separately.

"This tends to suggest that there was a great deal of pre-planning," Mr Connor said.

Jacques denies one count of theft relating to the 13 volumes missing from the library.

He also denies going equipped with the Senate House card to commit theft.

The trial continues.