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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 May, 2004, 12:19 GMT 13:19 UK
Conan Doyle sale sparks concern
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle items for sale
Three thousand of Conan Doyle's items were put up for auction
Wednesday's sale of papers belonging to Sherlock Holmes creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has raised concerns from Holmes enthusiasts and MPs.

Scottish National Party MP Pete Wishart told the House of Commons on Tuesday that Christie's auction of 3,000 items - including letters, notes and manuscripts - should be postponed.

Instead the collection should remain intact and be placed in the British Library to "serve the public good", he said.

The MP for North Tayside added that there was "substantial public concern" that Christie's had not followed "due process" in offering the items for sale.

Later Mr Wishart told BBC Radio 4's PM programme: "The items that might be auctioned by Christie's may contain some material which should rightly belong in the British Library as bequeathed to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's daughter Dame Jean Bromet.

SNP MP Pete Wishart
Pete Wishart said the sale raised "substantial public concern"
"I am asking for this auction to be delayed in order that the relevant and necessary paperwork supporting these documents are made available."

Mr Wishart said it should be made accessible to the public as "a one-and-only collection" of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's private work.

"It depresses me, the fact that this is going to be broken up and possibly go abroad," Mr Wishart said, urging the government to do "all that it can" to ensure the collection remained intact.

London auction house Christie's responded by asserting its legal right to conduct the auction.

We established that the consignors of the collection had legal title to sell
Christie's
A spokesman said: "We established that the consignors of the collection had legal title to sell. We are satisfied and so the auction will go ahead."

Nevertheless Mr Wishart said the matter still needed to be "tidied up".

"There are documents that exist which support or deny whether it was actually legal to sell and I wish Christie's would produce them," he said.

Expert

His comments followed the death of a Sherlock Holmes expert who was said to have had strong concerns about the sale.

Richard Lancelyn Green, a former chairman of the Sherlock Holmes Society, was found garrotted with a shoelace at his home in South Kensington, central London, in February.

The 50-year-old died of asphyxiation, Westminster Coroner's Court was told, and an open verdict was recorded.

Lawrence Keen
Lawrence Keen was the last person to see Mr Green alive
Mr Green's sister, Priscilla, told the inquest she had become worried about her brother in the week before his death.

"It was clear he was very concerned about the upcoming Sherlock Holmes sale," she said.

"This was Richard's life - Conan Doyle. It seemed that something about this sale was worrying him enormously and I tried to get him to explain to me what it was.

"He made comments about his own reputation, about the possibility of his name being in the papers, about people behaving in a way he did not expect them to and doing things he did not expect them to."

'Bugged'

He sent her a note containing three names and telephone numbers, which had seemed to Ms Lancelyn Green "to be the beginning of a thriller novel".

The document had the words "please keep these names safe" written on it.

The last person to see Mr Green alive was his former partner, care worker Lawrence Keen.

"He asked me to go in the garden because he thought the flat was bugged," Mr Keen told the inquest.

"His mind was not its normal self and he was telling me someone in America was trying to hunt him down."

However, coroner Dr Paul Knapman concluded it was "assumed by all" that Mr Green's paranoia was "without much foundation".




SEE ALSO:
Conan Doyle papers set for sale
19 May 04  |  Entertainment
Sherlock expert in death mystery
24 Apr 04  |  London
Conan Doyle papers 'to fetch 2m'
16 Mar 04  |  Entertainment
Solving it like Sherlock
29 Aug 03  |  Entertainment


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