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Man arrested over theft of rare books from Victoria store

All of the rare and antiquarian tomes — valued at $55,000 — have been recovered
Russell Books manager Andrea Minter posted this photo, saying the signed Walt Whitman poetry collection and books from the 1600s are safe. VIA FACEBOOK

A man arrested for stealing rare books from a business in downtown Victoria on Thursday has three outstanding warrants for similar offences, according to Victoria police.

Police said the suspect broke into Russell Books on Fort Street early on Thursday.

All of the rare and antiquarian tomes — valued at $55,000 — have been recovered. Among the books was a first-edition signed copy of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, a poetry collection valued at $10,000, a J.K. Rowling-signed Harry Potter novel and some ultra-rare books published in the 1600s.

“After what must have been a frightening day, Walt Whitman and some of his friends from the 1600s spent the night recuperating at our house,” Russell Books said in a social media post. “Thank you everyone for the positive thoughts. A big thank-you to our downtown community and especially VicPD for getting our property back in less than 24 hours.”

The stolen books ranged in individual value from $400 to $10,000.

Victoria Police gathered information from the business owners and other community members, and used surveillance footage to determine that the suspect had tried to enter a multi-unit temporary housing facility in the 800 block of Johnson Street, but was unsuccessful.

The suspect left behind some of the stolen books in the 800 block of Johnson Street, which were taken by another person but eventually turned over to police.

On Thursday afternoon, officers found the suspect who matched the description from the surveillance footage. The man was found in possession of about $22,000 worth of the stolen books.

He also had three outstanding arrest warrants in the province for offences that included mischief under $5,000, possession of stolen property over $5,000 and break and enter with intent. The suspect was in custody ahead of a court appearance.

Police said a second individual entered Russell Books shortly after the initial break and enter, and had also stolen books. This person is still at large.

Anyone with information about the break and enter is asked to contact VicPD’s report desk at 250-995-7654 or to call Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

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