AN antiques dealer was yesterday charged with stealing a £3m first edition of Shakespeare’s works from Durham University.

Raymond Scott said he would plead “very much not guilty” and would relish his day in court.

Emerging from Durham Police Station, where he had answered bail, the 51-year-old said: “In the words of John McEnroe, they cannot be serious.”

Durham University’s Shakespeare First Folio, published in 1623, was stolen in December 1998.

Mr Scott hit the headlines last summer after presenting a book of the Bard’s work to the Folger Shakespeare Library, in Washington DC, US.

He was arrested during a raid on his home in Washington, on Wearside, a few days later. Mr Scott, who now lives in Wingate, County Durham, claims the two are different books.

However, he was yesterday charged with theft of the Durham University volume, and an alternative charge of handling stolen goods.

After being bailed to appear before North Durham Magistrates on Tuesday, February 10, Mr Scott, wearing a large fur coat, stepped into a 45ftlong limousine, where he opened a bottle of Dom Perignon champagne and tucked into a hot and spicy Pot Noodle, which he described as a “very much underrated gastronomic delicacy”.

Referring to the champagne, he said: “I intend to open this anyway, because it’s a celebration that I will clear my name.”

Mr Scott said he would have preferred to be chauffeured in a Rolls Royce, but had been told the Pussycat Dolls or Girls Aloud would join him in the limousine.

He described the investigation as a waste of taxpayers’ money, but said the police “have a job to do”.

Mr Scott said he bought his book in Cuba, the home of his fiancee, night club dancer Heidi Ross.

He said he did not believe he would be jailed, saying he loved his “fair England”, but added if he were, he would seek a job in the prison library.

He also reiterated his intention, if cleared, to sell the book to benefit sick children.

Mr Scott’s dramatic departure from Durham Police Station was arranged by North- East publisher Tonto, which plans to publish his story, under the title Shakespeare and Love.

Mr Scott was also charged with two further offences of theft and two alternative charges of handling stolen goods, which relate to a driving licence, credit cards and a Filofax.