July 12, 2010

Final act in the stolen Shakespeare Folio case


Raymond Scott

Raymond Scott

Unemployed book dealer Raymond Scott has been convicted of “handling stolen goods in the extraordinary case of a ‘priceless’ Shakespeare First Folio which went missing from a locked cabinet in Durham University’s Pallas Green Museum in a 1998 raid,” according to a report in the Daily Telegraph.

As reported earlier on MobyLives (here and here), in 2001 Scott had appeared at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC with the folio, claiming that he had discovered it in Cuba and wanting to know if it were genuine. The Folger staff immediately recognized the folio, though it had been badly mutilated–with the cover removed and pages torn out to obscure its identity–and called the FBI.

“Scott, who had mysteriously been able to afford a high-rolling lifestyle despite living off benefits alone, was subsequently arrested for theft, handling stolen goods and removing stolen property from the UK,” according to the Telegraph‘s report.

Scott appeared at his hearing in a silver stretch limo, complete with chilled champagne, and has painted himself as a high living, successful antiquarian book dealer, with homes in Monte Carlo and Liechtenstein, and a Cuban dancer girlfriend. “But in reality Scott was a small-time crook who lived with his widowed mother Hannah in a former council house in Tyne and Wear, his life hemmed in by credit card debts topping £90,000,” according to the Telegraph.

Scott was cleared of the charge of theft at Newcastle Crown Court but was found guilty of handling stolen goods and removing stolen property from the United Kingdom. Not yet sentence, Judge Richard Lowden nonetheless warned Scott that he faced a “substantial custodial sentence.” Following conviction, police revealed something they couldn’t during the trial: Scott had a string of 24 previous convictions dating back 32 years,” according to the Telegraph.

Or, as a Telegraph sidebar put it, Scott “is a middle-aged thief, with a string of convictions going back more than 20 years,” who has “never worked in his life, and though he has managed to rack up £90,000 of debt on his credit cards, his only income was state benefits.” When first approached by police about the folio theft, “Scott told officers: ‘I’m an alcoholic and need two bottles of top-of-the-range champagne every day, but only after 6pm. I hope you have some in the police station.”’

The folio, meanwhile, has been returned to Durham University.

Valerie Merians is the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House.