A 48-year-old man from Harrow has been found guilty of stealing a log book from the widow of an RAF airman who was part of the legendary Dam Busters squadron in the Second World War.
Alexander Bateman, of Headstone Lane, was first loaned the logbook by the widow in 1996, but then failed to return it when asked by the victim's daughter.
Bateman claimed the logbook had been stolen in the post before changing his story to say burglars had broken into his home and took the document.
He also forged a Christmas card which he claimed was from the victim that said he could keep the logbook.
Acting detective sergeant, Henry Childe, from the Falcon Unit of the Metropolitan Police, which investigated the theft, said: “Bateman lied about his willingness to return the treasured RAF logbook, which belonged to the widow of one of the Dam Busters airmen.
“He first made out it was lost in the post, by sending an empty envelope and then even tried to forge a Christmas card to make it seem like the victim had given permission for him to keep it.
“However, with the help of forensic experts, we were able to prove the card was a fake and our investigation has shown him up for the criminal he is.”
A/DS Childe said the logbook has now been lost and Bateman refuses to tell police what happened to it, claiming it was stolen in a burglary.
He added: “I only hope that today's verdict gives some degree of comfort to the victim and her family that Bateman's lies have finally been exposed.”
Bateman, a military historian, contacted the victim in 1996 where she lived in Canada as part of his research into the squadron.
He asked the victim if she could send any photographs or logbooks belonging to her late husband and she sent the logbook to help with his research.
Several years later, Bateman contacted the victim's daughter, who was unaware her father's logbook had been loaned to him.
When she learned Bateman had the document she asked for it back in January 2003.
Bateman sent an envelope which had been cut open at the bottom when it arrived, with a piece of card and a letter stapled to the inside, but no logbook.
He claimed it must have been lost, but then said he had recovered it from the Post Office.
Bateman later told the family he had been given the artifact without condition and produced a Christmas card apparently confirming this story.
However, handwriting experts analysed the card and concluded it was almost certainly not written by the victim.
The case was investigated by the Metropolitan Police' s Fraud and Linked Crime Online Unit (Falcon) after a report by the victim and her daughter in March 2015.
Bateman was charged in July 2016 with theft and was found guilty at Wood Green Crown Court on Friday (January 13) after a five day trial.
He will be sentenced on February 3.
Anyone with information on the whereabouts of the missing RAF logbook which belonged to the late Sergeant John Fraser is urged to contact A/DS Childe on 02083454552.
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