Fantasist Raymond Scott jailed for eight years

A serial thief who tried to sell a priceless Shakespeare first folio which had been stolen a decade earlier has been jailed for eight years.

By the time fantasist Raymond Scott tried to cash in on the book, which was taken from a library at Durham University in 1998, it had been "mutilated" in a bid to pass it off as a new discovery to experts at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC, USA.

But Newcastle Crown Court heard book boffins could not be fooled and Scott, a lonely eccentric who lived with his elderly mother in Washington, Tyne and Wear, became the centre of a Transatlantic police probe.

It was discovered Scott, who has more than a dozen convictions for theft, had tried to sell the book in 2008 because he had fallen deep into around 90,000 worth of debt after becoming infatuated with a dancer called Heidi Garcia Rios in Cuba.

In the months leading up to the attempted sale Scott had been sending tens of thousands of pounds to her in Havana, but realised he needed access to big money if he was to keep the 21-year-old convinced he was a wealthy traveller.

In a bid to make his fortune the 53-year-old, described by even his own legal team as a "Walter Mitty", tried to sell the antique, which had been ripped of its goat skin boards and some pages in the hope he could hide its true origins and sell it for a fortune.

Scott, who turned up for court in various guises including Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara brandishing two guns, a tartan clad MacBeth and would often be surrounded by busty women or burly minders he had paid for, denied theft, handling stolen goods and removing criminal property from the Uk, during a three week trial.

Jurors found Scott not guilty of theft but guilty of handling stolen goods and removing criminal property from the UK.

Scott appeared for sentence at Newcastle Crown Court yesterday (MON) wearing his trademark sunglasses, and a beige linen suit, where Judge Richard Lowden told him he was a "fantasist" involved in "highly sophisticated criminal matters".

On Scott's motives, the judge said: "You wanted to fund an extremely ludicrous playboy lifestyle in order to impress a woman you met in Cuba.

"It was worth in its condition then some millions of pounds.

"It would be regarded as priceless but to you it was definitely a very big price and you went to great lengths for that price.

"Your motivation was of course for financial gain.

"The book had to be kept for many years, it had to be defaced to hide it's true identity."

Scott shook his head as Judge Lowden told him: "You either did it or you embraced the obvious fact that someone had already done it."

He also branded the damage done to the book as "cultural vandalisation".

The Judge described the book as "quintessentially English treasure"and said

that Scott had attempted to damage the book to hide its true identity, but could not be so damaged to lose value.

He told the court that this was Scott's attempt to "take on the world's experts at their own expertise."

He said: "You were confident that that balance had been achieved. You were however overconfident because the experts were more confident than you."

He did not give evidence in his own defence, but stuck with the story he had told police, that he had been given the book in Cuba and did not realise it was the stolen copy.

During the trial his barrister Toby Hedworth QC said Scott did not give evidence as whatever he said would be "rubbished" by the prosecution because of his dishonest past.

Mr Hedworth said allowing Scott to be cross-examined would have been like "throwing a christian to the lions" and prosecutors would "turn him inside out"

with ease.

Mr Hedworth said: "Raymond Rickett Scott, shopper and shoplifter, serial credit card user, of cards sometimes not even obtained in his own name, a Walter Mitty fantasist, international traveller and playboy with an extensive line in sharp clothes from the apparently bygone age, a Ferrari driver and fine cigar smoker, no doubt last seen in a cinema near you staring in Boogie Nights, a 53-year-old, still living at home with his elderly mother, complaining in text messages about having to ask for permission for another night or two away, international playboy with a single bed in Washington, Tyne and Wear, pockets empty, bank accounts stripped by a beautiful young woman in Havannah who seems to have got through 111 times the national average wage in six months."

Mr Hedworth said Scott was simply a "sad and lonely" man who was easily duped and had been used as someone else's stooge.

Shortly before the guilty verdicts last month, and before Scott was remanded in custody awaiting sentence, the publicity hungry eccentric had moaned the massive media interest in his trial had been dented by the police manhunt for Raoul Moat.

He said: "The newspapers have been interested in my story since 2008, I thought there would have been more reporters here today.

"Obviously a lot of the reporters are busy covering the police manhunt.

"People can read all about my side of the story in my book which is due to be published in September.

"The book, which I am co-author of with a journalist friend, will be called

Shakespeare and love in Cuba - that is world exclusive information, we have

only just decided on the title.

"I have not given evidence in the trial because I haven't felt the prosecution case against me is strong enough.

"Hopefully I may be able to appeal the verdict if it goes against me."

After the guilty verdicts Scott also pleaded guilty to an unrelated charge of theft of two paintings from Fenwicks in Newcastle in October 2008,.

He had previously denied the charge and was due to be tried, but admtted his guilt after turning up at a police station the week before his guilty verdict with the paintings in tow.

Prosecutor Robert Smith QC told the jury of five men and seven women how 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 it monetary worth.

He said through his friendship with her, while he was renting a two storey villa with tropical gardens and pool in the capital, he had been introduced to Deni Mareno Leon, a retired military major whose mother had recently died.

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.

Scott said 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 in Washington.

Scott said as his Cuban friends had been unable to take the book to the Folger museum themselves, he had agreed to have it authenticated on their behalf and given them a 10,000 dollar deposit before he took it out of the country and

into the US.

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 bring 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.

"The truth was Raymond Scott lived in a house at Widgeon Close, Washington, not DC, but Tyne and Wear, with his mother.

"He was not a wealthy man by any means, on the contrary, he was living on state benefits.

"He was living way beyond his means, he had at the time debts of more than 90,000."

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.

Mr Smith said experts used the book's measurements, a handwritten entry known to be inside and the fact the missing leaves were likely to have distinctive markings or hole to confirm it was the same volume.

The court heard the title page in the Durham first folio bore a distinctive

press from when it was housed at the Cambridge University library in the 1630s when the owner Bishop Cosin was in France. This page is now missing.

One of the leaves, which has now been removed, contained a personalised letter.

And the last leaf, which has also been removed, bore a distinctive hole.

During the trial jurors got to see the ancient relic, which was brought to court by library staff.

The formerly well-preserved copy was placed on a large white cushion on top of a trolley.

While the book was in public view at the court hearing a member of library staff sat close by it.

It had been taken into court in a black strongbox with padlocks and wrapped in white tissue.

A retired keeper of rare books at Durham University told jurors during the trial the significance of the document.

Dr Ian Doyle said: "It is the most important printed book of English Literature in its contents since it contains all or virtually all of Shakespeare's plays.

"As many of half of them are not in any other printed edition and are therefore the sole source of our knowledge of them."

Dr Doyle told the court he had worked with the folio since he became employed at Durham University library in 1950.

He told jurors the Durham first folio had a number of distinguishing features which made it stand out from the remaining 200 plus which are still in existence.

One such example being the book's 330mmx210mm dimensions.

Dr Doyle said: "Not one of them is alike".

Richard Kuhta, of the Folger Library, is one of a number of leading authorities who have examined the folio.

He said; "This is a cultural object that represents literary history, which

represents history, civilisation of humanity, the spread of the arts and the sciences and the world we have learned from.

"It is not just a book, it is a cultural legacy that has been damaged, brutalised and mutilated.

"The damage to the book is unconscionable, it is irreplacable."

Scott had previous 25 previous convictions dating back to 1977, and 16 court appearances where he had received community orders and suspended sentences.

Jailing him for six years for handling stolen goods, and another two years for removing criminal property from the UK, Judge Lowden said: "I have read the

psychiatric report and it tells me that you are to some extent a fantasist and have to some degree a personality disorder, and you have been an alcoholic.

"However it is clear that you are not suffering from any mental disorder such as bipolar.

"You live with your mother, a single man, claiming incapacity benefit since

2003 and carers allowance since 2007, presumably as you care for your mother.

"This prison sentence will be a blow disabilitating for her - I am bearing this in mind."

Scott also admitted the theft of two painting from Fenwick department store to the value of around 1000.

He received two six-month sentences in addition to the other sentences totally eight years which will run concurrently.