'Tome raider' jailed for antique book thefts

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The Independent Online

A Cambridge graduate-turned-professional book thief was today found guilty of stealing antique books worth £40,000 from a world-famous library.

William Jacques, who earned the nickname Tome Raider after stealing £1 million of rare books in the late 1990s, drew up a "thief's shopping list" as he continued his life of crime.

He would use a false name to sign in to the Royal Horticultural Society's Lindley library in London before stuffing valuable books under his tweed jacket and fleeing, Southwark Crown Court in central London was told.

Gino Connor, for the prosecution, said the crime was a "systematic, carefully planned theft committed by a man who knew precisely what he was doing".

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

The rare volumes of Nouvelle Iconographies des Camellias by Ambroise Verschaffelt were taken some time between June 2004 - when an audit of the books was last undertaken - and March 2007, the court was told.

Jacques, 41, of no fixed address, was previously jailed for four years in May 2002 by a judge at Middlesex Guildhall Crown Court for 21 counts of theft.

In the latest case, the jury heard Jacques would regularly visit the Lindley Library in Vincent Square, London, which holds books, journals, pictures and art on practical gardening, garden history, plants and design dating back to 1514.

Jacques, highly intelligent with an understanding of rare and valuable books, studied at Cambridge University and was a member of both the British Library and the London Library.

But staff started to become suspicious after noticing he would always wear the same clothes - a tweed jacket and glasses - on visits to the library.

Mr Connor said 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".

"It was rather crude, but it was effective," Mr Connor said.

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

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 said: "I do not know nothing about this," before adding: "Do you have any evidence?"

Jacques also had a card for London's Senate House library in the name of "Santoro" with him, the same name he used to sign in to the Lindley Library.

Police also found an A4 piece of paper with the names of 70 volumes of rare books, all kept at the library, which were listed in sequential order as to where they could be found.

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

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

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

Jacques was found guilty by a majority of 11-1 of one count of theft relating to the 13 volumes missing from the library.

He was unanimously found guilty of going equipped with the Senate House card to commit theft.

The jury of seven women and five men deliberated for five hours and 40 minutes.