A THIEF nicknamed the “Tome Raider” has been jailed for stealing rare books from the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS).

William Jacques, the son of a Selby farmer, was arrested in the town on Christmas Day over the theft of £40,000-worth of antique books from the society’s Lindley Library.

Yesterday the Cambridge graduate appeared at Southwark Crown Court after being convicted on 22 June of the theft of a quantity of antique books from the RHS and of going equipped to steal.

Jailing him for three and a half years, Judge Michael Holland QC said: “The effect of your criminality was to undermine and destroy parts of the cultural heritage that’s contained within these libraries.”

He said Jacques, 41, and of no fixed address, had made a list of books he wanted to steal and then sell on internet auction sites.

The judge, who said Jacques had no mitigation, told him: “You are a Cambridge graduate and should know better, I suppose.

“This was a systematic and carefully-planned theft and you had prepared what, in my view, was a target list, from your research at that library, of books that were worth stealing.

“This was a theft in progress and the list referred to books worth tens of thousands of pounds more.

“Your entire motivation was commercial and you intended to make whatever money you could from the theft of these books despite their cultural value.”

Jacques was “relying on the reluctance of library staff to challenge people” when they were used to dealing with members of the public whom they could trust, the judge said.

He stole 13 volumes of Nouvelle Iconographies des Camellias by Verschaffelt valued at approximately £40,000.

The volumes contain an array of coloured plates of camellias and explanatory text. Jacques, who earned the nickname Tome Raider after stealing £1 million of rare books in the late 1990s, drew up a “thief’s shopping list” as he continued his life of crime.

He would use a false name to sign in to the library before stuffing valuable books under his tweed jacket and fleeing, the court heard during his trial.

Julia Smart, mitigating, conceded her client was not remorseful, but said that due to his earlier conviction he had lost his job and had had to rely on friends to survive.

A proceeds of crime hearing in January will attempt to recover the books that Jacques stole.