A BOOK collector at the centre of the £15m Shakespeare manuscript mystery last night insisted he would be cleared of any wrongdoing – despite another setback.

The man alleged to have given Raymond Scott the valuable First Folio told a national newspaper that he had never seen it before.

Fifty-one-year-old Mr Scott was arrested last week after asking staff at the Folger Shakespeare Library, in the American capital of Washington DC, to value a rare copy of the Bard’s early work.

Experts believed the text was a prized copy stolen from Durham University ten years ago.

A world-wide investigation followed, and Mr Scott was later arrested at his North- East home.

Speaking last night, the 51- year-old bachelor described the prized text as “very valuable”, but denied it was the copy stolen in 1998.

He has called for police to return the book to him so he can auction it and donate a quarter of the proceeds to charity.

But the tale took another twist last night when a national newspaper claimed it had tracked down the mystery Cuban man who gave him the book.

Danny Leon Perez told The Daily Mail that what he gave Mr Scott to have valued was not the hugely valuable First Folio, but merely an old, battered copy of Shakespeare’s play The Tempest.

Mr Scott, an eccentric who neighbours claim often emerges in a silk dressing gown and sunglasses to iron the seats of his yellow Ferrari, at his home in Washington, rejected the claims last night.

He told The Northern Echo: “I am confident that no criminal charges will be laid against me, which is what my solicitor has more or less said.”

And he accused Durham University of hoarding rare books which could be sold for the good of the people of County Durham.

In a letter sent to The Northern Echo he writes: “Durham University just want yet another rare book to salt away in their ivory tower, for no one who is not part of the university can enter its hallowed portals.

“Apparently the £15m Shakespeare book is just the tip of a gargantuan iceberg of rare books hoarded by them, miser fashion, while pleading poverty and the parsimony of Government grants.

“Sold on the open market, these redundant relics would raise billions, yes, thousands of millions of pounds, which could benefit the university itself and the people of County Durham (I live in Tyne and Wear, alas) which is still a deprived area.

“I think any fair-minded person will find this morally repugnant.

“I say ‘Free The Books’.”

A police spokesman said: “There is a thorough and wide-ranging inquiry which is ongoing and will take some time to complete. Until then, it would be inappropriate to comment further.”

Professor Chris Higgins, vice-chancellor at Durham University, said: “The matter is now in the hands of the police and they are conducting a full investigation.”