Thief Who Plundered Libraries for Rare Maps Is Sent to Jail
Jason Bennetto Crime Correspondent, The Independent (London, England)
A FORMER landscape gardener who travelled Britain and Europe stealing rare maps from libraries was jailed yesterday for four-and- a-half years.
Peter Bellwood, 52, was once on Scotland Yard's "Ten most wanted" list. He posed as a naive academic to gain access to valuable maps, which he secretly cut from books and stuffed in his trousers and jumper. Most recently he targeted the National Library of Wales, in Aberystwyth, where he stole at least 50 antique map prints, and sold them for pounds 70,000. Among the missing treasures were prints in 16th- and 17th-century editions of atlases by Mercator, Speed, Jansson and Blaeu.
Bellwood, from Colchester, Essex, was sentenced at Swansea Crown Court for the thefts in Wales. At an earlier hearing he had admitted six charges of theft of antique maps in 2000.
Staff in Aberystwyth were alerted to his activities by the Royal Library in Copenhagen, where he had been caught on CCTV in 2001 apparently razoring pages from a 16th-century atlas. Libraries in Finland and Sweden later discovered he had visited.
With another British map thief, Bellwood is believed to have taken a large proportion of the 4,500 maps missing from libraries across Europe. An audit at the Welsh Library showed 105 maps were missing, only half of which Bellwood admitted having stolen. He was caught after several years on the run shortly after he was placed on the "most wanted" list. The court was told Bellwood had stolen the maps to fuel a horse-race gambling addiction.
Creighton Harvey, for the prosecution, said Bellwood would sign in at libraries under his own name and request rare folio editions of atlases which he would then be allowed to handle in a map room. "He would use a hobby knife to cut the maps out," Mr …
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: Thief Who Plundered Libraries for Rare Maps Is Sent to Jail. Contributors: Jason Bennetto Crime Correspondent - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: December 23, 2004. Page number: 13. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.