Alex Bateman leaving Wood Green Crown Court today. Pic by Gavin Rodgers/Pixel8000
Alex Bateman accepted a formal police caution in 2003 in a case involving the theft of documents from the Public Record Office [now the National Archives] between 1990 and 2001, a court was told today by a police officer, Det Sgt Henry Childe. No further action was then taken on the matter. Bateman is on trial at Wood Green Crown Court for the theft of a Royal Canadian Air Force logbook from Mrs Doris Fraser, the widow of Dams Raid bomb aimer, Plt Off John Fraser.
In his own evidence regarding the arrest of Bateman in 2015 and the subsequent search of his house, Det Sgt Childe also told the court that he had asked Bateman if he still had the logbooks. To this he replied ‘I don’t have them. I don’t know where they are.’
Earlier the court was read a statement from an expert forensic documents investigator, Nicola Thomas. She had compared a single Christmas card which had a handwritten message ‘Please keep the logbook. You might find it useful’ with four other cards written by Doris Fraser. The single card had rudimentary similarities with the other four, Thomas said, but there were also ‘significant and consistent differences in size, spacing and alignment.’ She had a strong view that someone other than Doris Fraser had written and signed the single card, ‘making some attempt to imitate her signature and possibly also her writing.’
Later, Bateman gave evidence in his own defence. He had developed an interest in the history of the Second World War as a child, he told the court. He began writing to veterans asking for autographs, using a copy of Who’s Who from his school library to gain their addresses. This led to him starting research on the men who took part on the Dams Raid, and he ended up with signatures from more than 40.
He then began seeking out information about those who had died on the raid or subsequently, and had written letters to local newspapers covering the areas where the men had been born or lived. One such letter had been to a newspaper in Vancouver Island, home after the war of John Fraser and his family.
Over the years, he had acquired a large collection of documents, and had helped a number of writers, publishers and filmmakers with their work. He was now at work on a series of five volumes, which would together form a comprehensive account of the Dams Raid. When asked whether he made a living from this work he said ‘No’. His financial situation was ‘low’ and he had lived ‘effectively rent-free’ in the family home with his mother all of his life, until it had been sold after her death in 2015. At this point in his evidence, Bateman broke down and had to take a few minutes to compose himself.
Later, he told the court he had been given two other Dambuster logbooks, those of Sgt Gordon Yeo and Flg Off Ken Earnshaw. This was well known, he said, to other Dambuster enthusiasts.
He went on to describe how he had posted the Fraser logbook back to Ms Shere Fraser Lowe, Doris Fraser’s daughter, in a used padded envelope fastened with staples and parcel tape. Asked if he had himself slit the envelope open, he said, ‘No’. He wasn’t sure how he had been told that when it arrived, Ms Fraser Lowe had found that the logbook was missing, but he said he felt ‘panicked’ when he heard the news. He then made enquiries with the sorting office and could identify the logbook when it was found there. He retrieved it from the sorting office, but had no evidence to show that this had occurred.
He then told Ms Fraser Lowe that he had found the logbook, and offered to hand it over to her mother in person when the two were going to be in England ten or eleven weeks later for the commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the Dams Raid.
At this point, he said, he was rather suspicious as to why Ms Fraser Lowe had taken over the correspondence with him. She was quite intimidating, he said, and thought that she had telephoned him on several occasions, not just twice, which is what she had said in her evidence. He found the idea of meeting Doris Fraser to hand over the logbook if she flew to London especially to collect the book very stressful. ‘Something was stressing me out at the time,’ he said, but whatever it was, he could’t remember.
As the day’s proceedings drew to a close, the judge, Judge John Dodd QC, asked him why he hadn’t made a photocopy of the logbook before returning it. Bateman replied that it was probably because he had no money for copying.
The case continues.