Theft charge dismissed as mystery of stolen books signed by Queen Victoria goes on

General manager at the Royal Maritime Club in Portsmouth, 

John Alderson, pictured when the club's two historical visitors books were returned
General manager at the Royal Maritime Club in Portsmouth, John Alderson, pictured when the club's two historical visitors books were returned
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MYSTERY surrounds the theft of a club’s two historic visitors books signed by royalty after a charge against a former employee was dismissed at his trial.

The Royal Maritime Club’s books, one dating back to the 1890s and signed by Queen Victoria, were taken in late October, 2014.

But Portsmouth Magistrates’ Court heard police received a tip-off with officers at Gatwick Airport on June 8 this year arresting former club employee Martin Richardson, who was returning from Turkey.

The 51-year-old military veteran, of Thrush Walk, Waterlooville, stood trial yesterday denying the theft.

When quizzed by police at the airport, the former club operations supervisor was asked if he had anything he shouldn’t, the trial heard.

Prosecutor Vivian Ducie said: ‘He said “yes, the books” and pointed to his holdall.’

But chairman of the magistrates’ bench Peter Radley dismissed the charge ruling there was no case to answer.

Tim Sparkes, Mr Richardson’s solicitor, said the ‘most likely’ night the books were taken was on October 17, the night of the Trafalgar dinner, when Mr Richardson was not working at the club, in Queen Street, Portsea, Portsmouth.

Mr Radley said: ‘The fact that some three years later at Gatwick Airport he has the books give no credence or otherwise that he might or might not have been involved in the theft in the first place.’

General manager John Alderson told the court the club employed between 80-85 people and it had 100 rooms.

He agreed the Trafalgar dinner would have been busy, and on that night left the books in his locked office, to which there was a key kept behind the reception desk.

Mr Alderson said he realised the books were taken on October 22 but that he thought he moved one on October 18. Mr Richardson worked on the night of October 18, 19 and 20.

Nothing was found when police searched Mr Richardson’s home on November 4.

Mr Ducie said, in opening, that had Mr Richardson given evidence he would have said he bought the books at a car boot sale, only realising what they were earlier this year.