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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 May, 2003, 19:28 GMT 20:28 UK
'Book ripper' on wanted list
Peter Bellwood
Peter Bellwood is wanted by police in Wales and Denmark
A convicted art thief suspected of stealing priceless maps from libraries across Europe is a former gardener from Leeds, it has emerged.

Peter Bellwood, 50, from Swillington, has been placed on Scotland Yard's "top ten most wanted" list of suspects.

The hunt for Bellwood was launched after Danish authorities said they wanted him in connection with the theft of 16th and 17th Century maps from Copenhagen Royal Library.

CCTV images released by police alerted the National Library of Wales, which had suffered the theft of over 100 rare maps worth an estimated 100,000.

Bellwood, who has been nicknamed "The Ripper", was jailed for four years in 1996 for stealing hundreds of illustrations from 12 British libraries valued at 289,000.

Thousands missing

He is divorced and believed to be living abroad.

A Scotland Yard spokesperson said: "His modus operandi is to visit the libraries and cut out prints and maps from rare antique books dating from the 16th and 17th centuries.

"These rare pieces of history belonging to some of Europe's oldest establishments are left permanently destroyed but the maps stolen can be sold for between 500 and 10,000.

"It is estimated that 4,500 maps of this type are missing from libraries across Europe."

The BBC's Danny Carpenter
"Bellwood's crimes have earned him the nickname, 'The Ripper'."

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