Alex Bateman arriving at court, Friday 13 January. [Pic: Gavin Rodgers/Pixel8000]
Alex Bateman was told today that he will be sent to jail after being found guilty of the theft of a wartime Royal Canadian Air Force logbook. As the verdict was delivered, he bowed his head and closed his eyes. The judge then said that he had ‘lied through his teeth’ and ordered him to be remanded in custody before returning for sentence on Friday 3 February.
Photocopy of the first two pages of the missing logbook. This was introduced in evidence very near the end of the trial by Alex Bateman himself. It is thought that he made this copy before selling or otherwise disposing of the original. [Pic: Metropolitan Police.]
The logbook was lent to him for his research in 1996 by Doris Fraser, the widow of Flt Sgt John Fraser, the bomb aimer in AJ-M, the aircraft piloted by John Hopgood on the Dams Raid. This was the second Lancaster to attack the Möhne Dam on the night of the raid, and it was shot down with the loss of five of the crew. Fraser and the rear gunner were able to bale out of the burning aircraft, but were captured and became prisoners of war. After the war Fraser returned to Canada and joined the forestry service. He was killed in a flying accident in 1962.
Mrs Fraser’s daughter, Shere Fraser Lowe, asked him to return the valuable document in 2003. At first, Bateman went along with her request but then concocted a series of ruses in the hope she would think that it had been accidentally lost. He posted a deliberately damaged envelope to her address in Canada, so that she would think the item had been lost in the post. Then he claimed it had been found again, and finally that it had been stolen in a burglary at his home.
He also forged a Christmas card, which he said had received from Mrs Fraser in 1996, which told him to ‘keep the logbook, you might find it useful’.
It emerged during the trial that in early 2003 he had also accepted a formal police caution over the theft of some 70 documents from the Public Record Office (now the National Archives) in Kew.
Judge John Dodd QC said: ‘I cannot see any alternative to a custodial sentence. The length of the sentence which I consider absolutely inevitable, is now something I have to reflect on.’
He did, however make one final offer to Bateman. ‘He has lied through his teeth to this jury,’ he said. ‘He has done something dreadfully cruel, I think he has it in his power to tell the truth, and if he does choose to tell the truth and restore the original document that will help him enormously.’
During the trial, Bateman admitted never telling Mrs Fraser how much the item was potentially worth, but said: ‘I didn’t [tell her] at any point because I don’t see the monetary value in it. I only see the value of the information.’ He then added: ‘I don’t collect Dambusters memorabilia.’
However, his eBay account reveals that he has, in fact, publicly sold some small value items in recent years such as signed Christmas cards and an invitation to the premiere of The Dam Busters film in 1955.
In May 2016, Bateman was jailed for 12 months for making indecent images of children. He completed six months of this sentence, before being released on licence for good behaviour while in prison.
Anyone with information as to the whereabouts of the late Flight Sergeant John Fraser’s missing RAF log book should contact Acting Detective Sergeant Henry Childe on 020 8345 4552 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.