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Shamed Harrow historian ordered to pay thousands to RAF hero's widow for theft of priceless Dambusters artifact

Alexander Bateman stole a sought-after Second World War Dambusters logbook belonging to a commonwealth airman

Shere Lowe, the daughter of Dambusters hero Sergeant John Fraser, and his widow Doris, had urged people to come forward and help "bring a piece of Dad home"(Image: PA)

A military historian has been ordered to "do the honourable thing" and compensate the widow of an RAF airman after he stole a priceless Dambusters logbook from her.

Alexander Bateman, 49, of Headstone Lane, Harrow , was jailed for two years in February this year after he was found guilty of stealing the treasured record.

Wood Green Crown Court had heard that Bateman has refused to disclose the whereabouts of the logbook, which belonged to the late Sergeant John Fraser, an RAF airman in the famous 617 Squadron .

Judge John Dodd QC said the theft case had "engaged the emotions in a way that's unusual", as he ruled the shamed historian must pay £12,500 to Sgt Fraser's family for the missing book during a confiscation hearing on Monday (September 25).

He said: "It is absolutely clear that no financial value can possibly compensate the family, who have lost this connection with a hero."

The stolen log book which belonged to Dambusters hero Sergeant John Fraser(Image: PA)

He added: "That's one of the sad things that no order I make can possibly restore or make good that loss and that sense of betrayal frankly.

"That's something that we all acknowledge."

Sgt Fraser's widow, 93-year-old Doris, had lent the logbook to Bateman for research in 1996. But he lied repeatedly when he was asked to return the item and it has never been recovered, prompting fears it may have been sold.

Alexander Bateman

The prosecution argued the record was particularly sought after because it had belonged to a commonwealth airman and pointed to recent sales of similar log books which had earned up to £9,000 at auction.

The defence suggested a valuation of under £10,000.

Sgt Fraser, who was born in Canada, was one of 133 Allied aircrew who took part in the daring mission to destroy dams in Nazi Germany on May 16 and 17 1943.

His plane was shot down and Sgt Fraser was captured, interrogated by the Germans and held as a prisoner of war for two years before being liberated by the Russians. He moved to Canada with his wife following the conflict but tragically died in an air accident in 1962, leaving behind three children.

The late Sergeant John Fraser - a Dambusters hero(Image: PA)

Bateman, who wore an Adidas sweatshirt and blue jeans as he gave evidence in support of a lower figure, maintained that he had last seen the book in early 2003.

Asked if he knew where the record was, he replied: "I don't, no."

Judge Dodd said he would do all he can "to see that the family receive some appropriate measure, some modest measure of financial compensation" in addition to the value of the book.

Adjourning the case to a date to be fixed, the Judge added: "Mr Bateman has the opportunity to do the honourable thing. I'm sure he knows what I mean by that.

"I'm sure you all know what I mean by that."

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