These are the faces of two people being sought by police after they apparently walked off with a first edition Harry Potter book worth £6,000 from an exhibition.
The couple allegedly distracted gallery staff before snatching the hardback copy of The Philosopher’s Stone from its glass display case.
The book’s devastated owner now believes the rare edition – one of just 400 to be printed before the adventures of the boy wizard became a publishing phenomenon – has already surfaced on the London book market.
The couple allegedly distracted gallery staff before snatching the hardback copy of The Philosopher’s Stone from its glass display case
The theft comes as the first instalment of Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows, starring Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint, hits the big screen later this week.
The book, the first in the popular Harry Potter series that has netted author JK Rowling more than £500million, had been part of an exhibition of children’s illustrations at the Creative Art Gallery in Woodstock, Oxon.
It is owned by Oxford book dealer Adrian Greenwood who had loaned the restored copy, one of four first editions he owns, to the gallery for its Art You Grew Up With exhibition.
‘This one was worth £6,000 – it was a first edition that was library stock,’ said the book dealer.
‘It is very unusual and whoever stole it will have a terrible time selling it.
‘It is restored and we have photos of exactly where it has been restored so it is easy to identify.’
Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone, the book that introduced the young wizard to legions of fans around the globe, tells of Harry’s quest to retrieve the powerful stone protected by a three-headed dog.
However, unlike the fictional stone, the rare tome was not guarded by a mythical beast and the thief swiped the book as his female accomplice kept look out.
It happened at 1.30pm on Saturday, October 30, at the gallery in Oxford Street, Woodstock, and police have released CCTV images of two people they want to speak to in connection with the incident.
Rare: The first edition copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was one of just 400 originally printed
Mr Greenwood has a further three copies of the rare first edition, one of which is signed by the author and is up for sale with a £19,950 price tag.
He said book dealers and auction houses had been informed of the edition, printed in 1997 and he believed it had already been offered for sale.
‘A dealer in London had one offered to them by someone who left a fake phone number,’ he said.
Police constable Geoffrey Allen said: ‘I believe this was an opportunist crime and the offenders took advantage of the gallery assistant being occupied by a group of people.
‘The owner of the book is very keen for it to be recovered and we are appealing for anyone who recognises the two people in the CCTV images to call us.’