Five years ago the bizarre life of Shakespeare book thief Raymond Scott came to a tragic end.
In a series of interviews before Scott’s death, Mike Kelly got to know the limo-loving middle aged County Durham man who for a time became one of the country’s most notorious criminals. He looks back at the case.
It was in December 1998 that the Raymond Scott story began when a Shakespeare First Folio with an estimated value of around £3m was stolen from Durham University library.
The first edition of the Bard of Avon’s collected works published in 1623 was one of six other books stolen from two display cabinets.
None of the books were seen again until June 2008 when Scott walked into the world-renowned Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC, USA with the First Folio and asked for experts there to value it with a view to selling it.
Of the 750 originally printed, only around 240 have survived which makes them extremely valuable.
It also makes them extremely identifiable too as over the four centuries since being first published all have been the subject of extensive expert analysis which has detailed every blemish, tear, typographical error and personal note contained within their 700+ pages. In effect, establishing a unique literary DNA for every single one of them.
As such the First Folio Scott took to the Folger was identified as the stolen Durham copy within a matter of minutes by an expert there.
The FBI were informed who contacted the British police and soon after he was arrested at his then home in Washington, Tyne and Wear.
Scott always maintained his innocence saying he had bought it from a book seller in Cuba.
However during a series of interviews I conducted with him over an 18 month period, from his initial arrest to his conviction for handling stolen goods – not theft – he dropped enough hints he had done it.
He even confessed once in the final week of his four week trial.