September 20, 2019

Thief jailed for stealing over £80,000 worth of library books


Imagine being a PhD student at Napier University in Scotland, casually frequenting your campus library to borrow a textbook for your studies. But the shelf is empty—not one of the six copies the library supposedly stocks in available for loan. Frustratingly, you have no choice but to buy a copy (from online retailer Webuybooks, via Amazon) but hang on a minute … when it arrives, the book clearly comes from your university. Someone has gone to the trouble of fake stamping it with “withdrawn” on the inside cover, but the library has not withdrawn the book, it is still recorded as being in stock.

This is the way that 28-year-old Darren Barr was finally caught, after eleven months of stealing and selling library books. In this time he managed to pilfer nearly 7,000 books, mostly from Napier University, but he also stole from Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt universities. After Barr’s arrest, Napier discovered that between 4,000 and 4,250 books were missing with a face value of £72,800 (… not to judge, but did no one at the library realise that A LOT of books were mysteriously not being returned…?)

As Severin Carrell at the Guardian reports, Police Scotland said they recovered 1,300 of the stolen books from around the UK, including 260 from Edinburgh university and Heriot-Watt.  It was discovered that WeBuyBooks had paid Barr £10,612 for 1,995 books; Ziffit paid £18,600 for 4,488 books and Zapper £1,238 for 253 books.

Barr was jailed last week, after pleading guilty in 2018. Evidence included CCTV of Barr at Napier University library, arriving at various times with a black rucksack and a large hold-all before leaving and driving away. Textbooks and receipts were found in his car and at his home.

Sheriff Kenneth McGowan at Edinburgh Sheriff Court sentenced Barr to 25 months, saying:

“What I have before me here is a course of conduct continuing over a lengthy period of 11 months during which a very substantial number of books were stolen from Napier University in particular.

“These were of a high value. There was clearly careful planning on your part.

“In my view a custodial sentence is appropriate.”

Detective Sergeant Dougal Begg of Police Scotland said:

“This is one of the most brazen and high-value thefts from our universities that I can ever recall and the amount of money Darren Barr was able to make by reselling stolen books is staggering.

“Had it not been for the staff at Edinburgh Napier University raising their concerns about missing stock, we may never have uncovered what Barr was up to and even larger quantities of books may have ended up being taken from the institutions.”

“We conducted a thorough investigation that identified the scale of Darren Barr’s offending and ensured he was brought to justice.”

Barr managed to make over £30,000 before being caught. Librarians and students in Scotland can now sleep easy knowing books are (mostly) where they are supposed to be.



Nikki Griffiths is the managing director of Melville House UK.