Jobless man ‘mutilated’ stolen Shakespeare folio
A jobless book dealer who posed as a wealthy international playboy “mutilated” a rare Shakespeare first folio to disguise the fact that it was stolen, a court heard.
By Richard Savill
Published: 4:37PM BST 17 Jun 2010
Rare book dealer Raymond Scott arriving at Newcastle Crown Court for the start of his trial. Photo: North News
Raymond Scott tore the binding and boards from the 1623 book – described as the most important in the English language – before claiming to have discovered it in Cuba.
Mr Scott was alleged to have stolen the book from a locked cabinet at the Pallas Green Museum at Durham University in 1998.
Newcastle Crown Court was told Mr Scott had hoarded the folio at the two-up two-down former council home he shared with his elderly mother, Hannah, in Washington, Tyne and Wear.
The book reappeared in public on June 16 2008 when Mr Scott took it the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC, and tried to sell it.
By then, the book had pages missing and the boards it had been bound in were pulled off.
One expert who inspected the book, which was still thought to be worth one-and-a-half million US dollars in its damaged condition, described it as “ cultural legacy that has been damaged, brutalised and mutilated.”
Mr Scott, 53, who sat in court wearing Valentino sunglasses, Versace crocodile shoes and a Louis Vuitton waist pouch, denied theft, handling stolen goods and removing criminal property from Britain.
Robert Smith QC, prosecuting, said Mr Scott had told experts at the Folger library he was a wealthy businessman who lived in Switzerland and had a mother living in Monte Carlo.
He claimed he had inherited his father’s construction business and was independently wealthy, giving the impression he was more interested in the book’s historical background than its monetary worth.
Mr Scott told experts he had come across the book in Cuba after meeting a woman called Heidi Garcia Rios, who worked at a hotel in Havanna.
He said that through his friendship with her, while he was renting a two storey Villa, with tropical gardens and a pool, in the Cuban capital, he had been introduced to Deni Mareno Leon, a retired military major whose mother had recently died.
Mr Scott claimed it was after the death of Mrs Leon that the book, which had been in her family for a century and was kept in an old wooden bible box, came to light.
He said that after he was shown the folio, which included the works The Merchant of Venice, Hamlet, Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Macbeth, he had carried out some preliminary research in Cuba and learned of the Folger Shakespeare Library.
As his Cuban friends had been unable to take the book to the library themselves, Mr Scott said he had agreed to have it authenticated on their behalf and given them a $10,000 deposit before he took it out of the country and into America.
He described the day they had realised the potential value and historical significance of the book as “folio Friday”.
Mr Smith said: “He presented himself as someone doing a service to the cultural community by bringing in the book and having it authenticated.
“He said he was staying at the Mayflower hotel in Washington where he had a suite; the Mayflower is an exclusive and well known hotel in Washington.
“He offered Cuban cigars to the curator, who declined,” Mr Smith added:
“The truth was Raymond Scott lived in a house at 3 Widgeon Close, Washington, not DC, but Tyne and Wear, with his mother.
“The evidence will establish he was not a wealthy man by any means, on the contrary, he was living on state benefits.
“The evidence will establish he was living way beyond his means, he had at the time debts of more than £90,000.”
The court heard investigations revealed Mr Scott had become “infatuated” with a woman living in Cuba in around February 2008 and had been sending her huge sums of money.
Mr Smith said this was cash he could “ill afford and had been borrowed for that purpose”.
The court heard despite the damage to the book experts at the Folger concluded it was an original first folio, one of only around 200 printed, after examining the paper under a microscope and carrying out other tests.
Despite their findings the experts at the Folger sought a second opinion.
It was when the book was further examined it was identified as the stolen Durham edition.
The trial, expected to last four weeks, continues