Graduate arrested for £50,000 book theft

A graduate of Jesus College has been accused of the theft of books worth up to £50,000 from the library of the Royal Horticultural Society in London. William Jacques, 40, was arrested in Selby, Yorkshire, on Christmas Day by the North Yorkshire Police acting on behalf of the Metropolitan Police.

Mr Jacques matriculated at Cambridge in October 1987 as an Economics student, graduating three years later with a 2:1.

He became a chartered accountant living in Maida Vale, North London, and later gained an MA in 1994.

The accusations concern thirteen volumes removed from the Lindley Library of the Royal Horticultural Society in Vincent Square, London, between December 2006 and February 2007. Mr Jacques had been arrested at the library in April 2007 following an investigation into the theft.

He was bailed pending further enquiries after this first arrest but subsequently disappeared, leading to the Metropolitan Police's appeal for help in tracking him down.

According to the Met press release, he is charged with the theft of books titled Une Nouvelle Iconographie des Camellias by nineteenth-century Belgian horticulturist Ambroise Verschaffelt. The books, published between 1848 and 1860, are regarded as Verschaffelt's magnum opus, remaining one of the rarest and most comprehensive works on camellias to this day.

The Lindley Library contains works dating back as far as 1514. It is widely regarded as one of the world's most extensive horticultural collections, including books, journals, pictures and art concerned with botany, garden design and history, as well as practical gardening.

Mr Jacques allegedly signed into the library under the pseudonym Mr Santoro and smuggled the volumes out under his jacket.

None of the stolen books have been traced, and the police have requested that antique booksellers contact them in the event that they are offered for sale.

Mr Jacques was remanded in custody until his appearance at the City of Westminster Magistrates Court on the 31st of December and is scheduled to attend the court again on the 21st of January.

Tom Barfield - News Reporter

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