A new book that delves into the eccentric life of Raymond Scott reveals how he confessed to stealing the Shakespeare First Folio from Durham University a week before he was cleared of the charge.
Scott, of Wingate, County Durham, said he had not originally planned to steal the book because it was so bulky and he thought he’d be caught so instead he made off with much smaller items.
But security had been so lax he returned minutes later to carry out a second theft – this time making off with the £1m book.
He boasted that all he needed was “a hacksaw and a pair of pliers”.
However, later that same day, Scott sent a text message to author Mike Kelly saying he had been joking about the claim.
His confession is revealed in a book to be published later this month called Shakespeare & Love, in which the eccentric crook spilled the beans on the remarkable theft.
Scott never gave evidence in his 2010 trial in which he was jailed for eight years for handling stolen goods – the First Folio – and taking it out of the country.
In March 2012, he committed suicide in what is now HMP Northumberland.
Before his death, Scott conducted a series of interviews over an 18-month period with writer Mike for the book. His confession was made at the start of the final week of his four-week trial when he was at the Royal County Hotel in Durham. Scott told Kelly: “You know I did it, don’t you?”
He had always denied stealing the Shakespeare First Folio – one of the most sought after books in the literary world, which contains the first ever collection of Shakespeare’s plays and was printed in 1623.
Scott had been caught after taking it to the world-famous Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC in the US.
Experts there quickly identified it as the copy stolen from Durham University in 1998 and alerted the FBI who, in turn, contacted police in Britain.
Scott intended to sell the book to fund a lavish lifestyle with his 21-year-old fiancée Heidy – a cabaret dancer he met on holiday in Havana, Cuba.
At the hotel meeting he explained how he came to steal it.
Scott said in 1998 he had been “scoping” out Durham library and had seen five cabinets – two wooden ones and three metal – containing books and manuscripts.
He broke into one with a screwdriver and shoved its contents into a plastic shopping bag before making his way out, then returning later for the Folio.
For years he kept it in a bookcase in the bedroom of the home he shared with his elderly mother, Hannah.
He recalled how some nights, as she watched Emmerdale downstairs, he was upstairs reading “the greatest secular book in the English language”.
In 2006, a newspaper report detailed how a First Folio had sold for £3m. So, when the following year he met Heidy and needed cash to maintain the Champagne lifestyle the couple shared, he decided to go for broke and sell the stolen copy.
To “live one day as a lion, not as a lamb”, as he put it.
The Durham copy was in a similarly pristine condition as the one he had read about and it was only then, according to Scott, that he realised how much it might be worth.
He came up with the idea of a Cuban provenance for the book and set about removing the pages and binding which could identify it as the Durham First Folio.
But it wasn’t enough to fool eagle-eyed experts at the Folger Shakespeare Library.
Despite the downfall of his master plan, Scott kept up his eccentric persona after his initial arrest and subsequent trail.
His love for the lavish was apparent when he turned up to answer bail in January 2009 in a gold-coloured 48ft-long stretch limo Hummer.