ANTIQUES dealer Raymond Scott has lost his civil claim to obtain a priceless book at the centre of a police probe.
Scott, 51, is at the centre of a transatlantic investigation into the theft of a £15m edition of a Shakespeare first folio from Durham University Library.
The eccentric bachelor, of Washington, Tyne and Wear, has told how he took a copy of a first folio he got from a friend in Cuba to the Folger Shakespeare library, in Washington DC . . . but police believe it’s the same copy which was stolen from Durham University Library in December 1998.
Last October, Scott lodged a civil claim when he heard the rare folio was back at Durham University and he demanded its vice-chancellor — Professor Christopher Higgins — return it to him so that he can prove ownership.
However, in a High Court hearing held at Newcastle Crown Court on Friday, he was told he can’t have access to the book because it was being kept at the university on the police’s behalf.
Bruce Walker, the barrister representing Professor Higgins, said: “The wrong defendant has been sued.
“It is needed for the police investigation and retained by Durham Police, but it is in Durham University’s custody in their climate-controlled facilities and it cannot be examined without the police being present.”
Dressed in his favourite Cuban holiday outfit in honour of his “Cuban copy” — topped off with a baseball cap signed by Michael Schumacher and Tiffany sunglasses — Scott represented himself in the two-hour hearing, held in the chambers of district judge Peter Pescod.
Scott said: “If I have made a mistake in naming Professor Higgins I apologise.
“Learned counsel say I want the folio’s return but that is not in fact the case. I only wish for an independent expert to be given access to the first folio. I understand police have virtually monopolised the experts capable of examining the first folio.
“I have to agree they are not in a position to release it to me. It does appear as if I have mis-timed this.
“I was a bit impetuous when I went to the county court . . . I suppose my blood was up to a certain extent, by the very fact it had been returned to Durham University.
“The police investigation is into its seventh month now. Rather like the Prince of Denmark, I have borne the whips and scorns of time, and the law’s delay.”
Judge Pescod rejected the claim against Professor Higgins. He ordered Scott to pay the costs, and asked him how he felt about paying the fee, which he reduced from £8111 to £5000.
Quoting from Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, Scott replied: “They are entitled to a pound of my flesh so long as they don’t take any of my blood.”
He has to answer to police bail later this month, when he hopes to find out whether he will be charged in connection with the theft of the book.