A SERIAL thief accused of stealing a rare first folio of Shakespeare’s works will not give evidence in his defence.
A jury at Newcastle Crown Court has been told that defendant Raymond Scott will not take to the witness stand to give his version of how he came to be in possession of a priceless book of Shakespeare’s works.
Scott has previously told police that he came by the book after being handed it by a friend in Cuba. But prosecutors maintain he hid the book for more than 10 years, after stealing it from Durham University Library, before then taking it to the Folger Shakespeare Museum in Washington DC.
Prosecutors claimed he stripped the book of its boards and tore out some pages in a bid to disguise its true identity and make a fortune from its sale.
Judge Richard Lowden told the jury yesterday the proceedings had reached a stage where Scott could give evidence in his own defence and that jurors may “draw such inferences as appear proper” if he declined.
Toby Hedworth QC, defending, confirmed Scott, who has more than a dozen previous convictions for theft, would not be giving evidence.
Addressing the jury prosecutor Robert Smith said: “We do not have any assistance from Mr Scott about any of these compelling matters, all of which, the prosecution say, build a formidable case against him.
“You are entitled to ask yourself why, had he had an explanation, he has not gone into the witness box and told you what the explanation is. You are entitled therefore to conclude there is no explanation that might sensibly be offered by Raymond Scott, otherwise he would have told you. If there is none, there is only one conclusion, the prosecution say the circumstances he had the folio were dishonest and he knows so.”
Scott claimed after his arrest in 2008 he had been given the folio by a friend in Cuba who wanted him to get it authenticated.
During the trial jurors got to see the ancient relic, which was brought to court by library staff. 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.”
Scott, of Widgeon Close, Washington, denies theft, handling stolen goods and removing criminal property from the UK.
The trial continues.