THE man at the centre of an international investigation into the theft of a £1.5m copy of the collected works of Shakespeare is to go on trial – accused of stealing two books worth £50 from Waterstones.

Raymond Scott, who is the subject of an ongoing transatlantic police probe into the theft of a 380-year-old Shakespeare first folio from Durham University, is accused of shoplifting from Waterstones at the MetroCentre, in Gateshead.

The titles of the alleged stolen books are unknown, but they are understood to be worth a total of £50.99 – a world away from the value of the Shakespeare volume, which has been described as the most important printed work in the English language.

Appearing at Gateshead Magistrates’ Court on October 30, Mr Scott pleaded not guilty to a single charge of theft on September 25, and the case was adjourned.

The 51-year-old was granted bail and will face trial before magistrates early in the new year.

He was also arrested on Monday in connection with a separate alleged theft from a store in Newcastle city centre.

The nature and value of the items concerned are unknown.

It is understood Mr Scott was released on bail until later this month. No charges have been made.

A Northumbria Police spokeswoman said last night: “We can confirm a 51-year-old man was arrested on November 10 on suspicion of shoplifting.”

Mr Scott, a bachelor who lives with his elderly mother, Hannah, in Wigeon Close, Washington, on Wearside, made headlines around the world in July, when he presented a book of Shakespeare works to the internationallyrespected Folger Shakespeare Library, in Washington DC, US, claiming to have bought it in Cuba – the home of his fiancee, Heidy Ross, a 21-yearold dancer at Havana’s Tropicana club.

After analysing the book, library experts became concerned it was the Shakespeare first folio stolen from Durham University library, on Palace Green, in Durham, shortly before Christmas in 1998.

After initially being arrested at his home and then bailed in July, Mr Scott was rearrested by Durham Police on November 6, after new evidence emerged.

He was on a bus to London when detectives boarded the vehicle and arrested him in Darlington.

Mr Scott claims he was travelling to the capital to deliver books to Amnesty and Oxfam.

He was released the following day and bailed again until January.

Durham’s stolen Shakespeare first folio is one of only about 250 surviving copies.

Bill Bryson, best-selling travel writer and chancellor of Durham University, has described it as a “national treasure”.

The 900-page book, the earliest collection of the Bard’s plays, was taken while on display as part of an exhibition of English literature from the Middle Ages to the 20th Century.

Also taken were a 14th Century hand-written English translation of the New Testament, a 15th Century manuscript including a fragment of a poem by Canterbury Tales author Geoffrey Chaucer, two works by the Tenth Century poet Aelfric, printed in 1566 and 1709, an edition of the Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf from 1815, and a 1612 book of maps and poetry.

Mr Scott claims the book he presented to the Folger Shakespeare library, which he calls the Cuban copy, is a different book and has launched a legal fight to get it back.

It was returned to the UK last month by a high-level delegation, including representatives of Durham Police and Durham University.