Spanish electrician on trial for theft of medieval travel guide Codex Calixtinus

Prosecution is expected to argue theft was not motivated by greed but by a desire for revenge on the cathedral clergy over failure to give the long-serving electrician a work contract

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The Independent Online

Four years after a priceless 12th-century travel guide, the Codex Calixtinus, was stolen from a Spanish cathedral, an electrician who worked there, and two members of his family, went on trial for theft today.

Jose Manuel Fernandez Castiñeiras and his wife and son face possible prison sentences totalling 31 years as well as fines of up to €2.3m (£1.8m) for theft and money laundering, after the manuscript, which went missing from Santiago de Compostela cathedral in 2011, was discovered in his garage.

Lawyers for the defendants, who all appeared in court today, argued for over two hours that the majority of the prosecution’s evidence and in some cases the methods with which it had been acquired was not legally admissable. The evidence included phone taps of the family flat, a security video apparently showing the electrician stuffing wads of money into his pockets in the cathedral offices and a now-retracted confession by Mr Fernandez Castiñeiras. More than 60 witnesses are due to testify in the trial against the former electrician, who was employed by the cathedral for more than 22 years. Thanks to his job, it is claimed, Mr Fernandez Castiñeiras was able to make copies of several keys.

The prosecution is expected to argue that Mr Fernandez Castiñeiras’ theft of the Codex was not motivated by greed but by a desire for revenge on the cathedral clergy, because he was, it has been claimed, enraged by the authorities’ reported failure to give him a work contract despite his long years of service.

A year after it went missing the Codex was found wrapped in plastic sheeting in the electrician’s garage, reportedly along with large quantities of money, totalling around €1.7m.

The Codex is the first guide for Christians travelling to Santiago de Compostela to the shrine of St James.