A SELF-STYLED international playboy, who was jailed for eight years for handling a priceless stolen Shakespeare volume, has launched a bid to clear his name.

Raymond Rickett Scott was convicted of handling Durham University’s stolen Shakespeare First Folio and removing it from the UK at Newcastle Crown Court last July.

But he is now challenging his convictions and his legal battle got under way yesterday with a preliminary hearing at the Court of Appeal, in London.

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Lord Justice Moses, Mr Justice Simon and Judge Francis Gilbert said further investigation was needed before the appeal could go any further.

The next hearing in Scott’s appeal bid is expected to take place later this year.

At his trial, Scott, 54, was accused of stealing the 1623 Shakespeare collection, said to be the most important printed work in the English language, from Durham University’s Palace Green library in December 1998.

The treasure remained missing for ten years, only reappearing when Scott produced it at the Folger Shakespeare Library, in Washington DC, US, in June 2008.

The eccentric book dealer claimed he had acquired it in Cuba, home of his then-fiancee, Havana nightclub dancer Heidi Garcia Rios.

Flamboyant Scott, who paraded as an international playboy, swigging champagne, driving a Ferrari and smoking Cuban cigars while living on benefits, was arrested three weeks later in a two-up two-down former council house he shared with his elderly mother in Washington, Wearside.

He was cleared of theft but convicted of handling and transporting stolen goods.

The book, which experts say was damaged, brutalised and mutilated, was returned to Durham University, where it was exhibited this spring.

By public demand, the volume went back on public display in the Wolfson Gallery on Saturday, July 16, and will remain so until Sunday, September 11.

Of the 1,200 copies of the Folio believed to have been printed, about 230 are known to survive.

Six other historic books and manuscripts that were stolen along with the Folio and are said to have a combined value of £160,000 have never been found.