09 March 2017
Alex Bateman, a military historian who profited from writing several books based on the Dambusters raid has been convicted of theft.
Alex Bateman borrowed the log book of the late Flight Sergeant John Fraser from his widow in 1996 so he could carry out research on the raid on the Ruhr dams.
However, when 92-year old Doris Fraser and her daughter asked Bateman to return the log book, valued at £10,000 he embarked on a series of increasingly cruel subterfuges to avoid returning it. Firstly, he claimed that the log book had been lost in the post when he attempted to return it. He then claimed that Doris had sent him a Christmas card in 1996 stating that he could keep the document. However, a hand-writing expert who analysed correspondence from Doris said that it was unlikely to have been written by her. Bateman was duly accused of forging the card.
The deception continued when, after repeated requests from the family for the return of the logbook, Bateman claimed that it had been stolen from his home in a burglary. A subsequent investigation into the claimed-burglary discovered no evidence of it ever happening, with no leads or suspects.
After more than 20 years since he first took possession of the log book, which is still missing, Bateman was found guilty of theft after a five day trial at Wood Green Crown Court, and sentenced to two years in jail. Judge John Dodd QC remarked, "It is my view that this offence is so serious as to call for term of immediate imprisonment. It will be plain to you that I consider this to be a despicable offence involving, as it did, abusing the trust placed in you, presenting yourself as a genuine historian, by the widow of a war hero. You decided to keep the log book treating it as your own misleading the family when they sought for it's return which added to their sense of loss and betrayal. It remains a mystery as to what you actually did with that logbook."
This wasn’t the first time that Bateman had been involved in document theft. In 2003 he received a caution for theft after admitting stealing historical documents from the Public Records Office. He had also previously been jailed for 12 months after being convicted of six counts of making indecent images of children and one count of possessing indecent images of children found on his computer. Despite all this, his defence council still read out a short letter from Bateman, stating that he had lost the log book and didn’t know of its whereabouts.