Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Man stole £80,000 of university books to sell online

Darren Barr Image copyright Police Scotland
Image caption Police established that Barr had stolen and sold thousands of books

A prolific thief who stole more than £80,000 of books from three university libraries and then sold them online has been jailed for 25 months.

Darren Barr made £30,450 after he targeted colleges in Edinburgh between October 2017 and September 2018.

A court heard Barr, 28, stole thousands of texts from Edinburgh University and Napier and Heriot-Watt universities.

He was caught after a PhD student bought a book stolen from her own university library.

Edinburgh Sheriff Court heard there were supposed to be six copies of the text in the library but none was available.

The woman then bought a copy from online company Webuybooks - only to discover it had actually come from her university library, and had a fake withdrawn notice marked on it.

Court documents revealed Napier University was made aware last year of the possible thefts from its libraries at its campus sites at Craiglockhart and Sighthill in Edinburgh.

A stock check revealed between 4,000 and 4,250 books had been stolen with around 3,500 books being taken from the Sighthill Campus alone.

The value of these books was approximately £72,800.

The court heard that various inquiries were carried out with Webuybooks.

Car search

It emerged that the company had purchased hundreds of university textbooks from what appeared to be the same person linked to the same bank account.

The account was set up under a false name but detectives discovered it belonged to Barr, who is also known as Alexander Van De Kamp.

Searches of CCTV footage showed Barr arriving at various times at the library with a black rucksack and a large hold-all before leaving and driving away.

When he was arrested in September 2018 his car was searched and officers found a number of university textbooks.

His home address was also searched and a receipt for a courier was found.

A courier box was then discovered by the police and found to contain more university books.

Almost 1,300 stolen books were later recovered from across the UK , with more than 1,000 of these belonging to Napier University.

It was established that around 7,000 had already been sold online.

Barr, of Kinross, admitted four charges of theft earlier this year.

'Careful planning'

Passing sentence, Sheriff Kenneth McGowan said: "What I have before me here is a course of conduct continuing over a lengthy period of 11 months during which a very substantial number of books were stolen from Napier University in particular.

"These were of a high value. There was clearly careful planning on your part.

"In my view a custodial sentence is appropriate."

Det Sgt Dougal Begg of Police Scotland said: "This is one of the most brazen and high-value thefts from our universities that I can ever recall and the amount of money Darren Barr was able to make by resetting stolen books is staggering.

"Had it not been for the staff at Edinburgh Napier University raising their concerns about missing stock, we may never have uncovered what Barr was up to and even larger quantities of books may have ended up being taken from the institutions.

Police discovered that WeBuyBooks paid the accused £10,612 for 1,995 books. Ziffit paid £18,600 for 4,488 books and Zapper paid £1,238 for 253 books.

Barr's solicitor Murray Robertson acknowledged that the thefts caused significant loss to the universities involved.

Barr now faces a proceeds of crime action later this year.