Shakespearean comedy: man accused of £15m book theft

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The Independent Online

He is accused of stealing a priceless first edition work of Shakespeare – and arrived at court in a horse-drawn carriage, wearing Highland tartan and swigging from a bottle of Drambuie.

Raymond Scott, who claims to be distantly related to Bonnie Prince Charlie, faced a judge at Durham Crown Court dressed in a kilt of Royal Stewart tartan, a Harris Tweed jacket, cravat and a pair of limited edition £1,000 Fendi sunglasses.

The eccentric antique book dealer, who faces charges relating to the theft of a Shakespeare first folio that went missing from Durham University Library more than 10 years ago, answered "Aye, that I am" to questions from the judge.

He then gazed, with his head tipped back, at the ceiling lights as his lawyer discussed a date to fix his trial.

Mr Scott, 52, faces a total of eight charges including stealing the book, and an alternative charge of handling stolen goods. He will face trial next summer, when expert witnesses from the US and Cuba will be called to give evidence by video link.

Mr Scott, of Wingate, Co Durham, was arrested after he walked into the world-renowned Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC with a Shakespeare first folio, claiming to have discovered it in Cuba where he has a fiancée, Heidy Garcia Rios. Durham Police were tipped off about his visit by the FBI. Detectives believe the book is the same multimillion-pound copy which was stolen from Durham University Library in December 1998.

The missing volume, printed in 1623, seven years after the Bard's death, is described as "the most important printed book in the English language" and was among a number of manuscripts taken from Durham in the raid.

It is believed the book, the definitive collection of Shakespeare plays on which most subsequent editions are based, would have a market value of at least £15m if it was ever sold.

Mr Scott travelled to court in a horse-drawn carriage led by a Scots piper, who played "Scotland the Brave". Accompanied by his researcher, PhD student Claire Smith, 29, and swigging from a bottle of Drambuie, Mr Scott compared himself with a character from Franz Kafka's The Trial.

He said: "In the book a person is brought to court and yet the crime is unspecified. I know in my case what the alleged offences are but I am completely innocent." He was released on bail. A date for trial will be set next month.