Known as the “Tome Raider”, he also goes by the aliases Mr Santoro or David Fletcher. A notorious gentleman thief in the rarefied world of antiquarian books, he has slipped through the hands of the police, is wanted and at large.
Libraries across the world, archive collections, auctioneers and international book dealers were given a brief respite when William Simon Jacques, a Cambridge graduate with an IQ on the genius rating, was jailed for four years for stealing £1m worth of rare and ancient books from the British Library in one of the biggest hauls in legal history.
Still a master of the alias and disguise, Jacques is out of prison and up to his old tricks once more. Now aged 40, he was arrested for stealing a 12-volume set of colour print books worth more than £50,000 from the Royal Horticultural Society’s world-famous Lindley library but disappeared while on police bail. Many months on, the trail has gone cold. “He is extremely bright, too bright to get caught, it is going to be very difficult to find him,” said one investigator.
Jacques is one of a handful of highly intelligent, well-educated criminals who operate in the somewhat murky world of international antiquarian book traders, collectors and curators. They successfully plunder priceless tomes, manuscripts and ancient maps, while the players in this closed world – the national and international libraries, the dealers and the victims themselves – largely remain silent about what is going on.