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The ABA’s May Newsletter noted that 14 of 71 identified missing items had already been returned but 57, unwittingly sold over a period of several years by Dominic Winter – for whom Slade had acted on occasion as a consultant – had yet to be recovered.

In mid-March, on receipt of a list from Sir Evelyn de Rothschild’s solicitors, the ABA wrote to seven members who had bought books, but by the time of the April council meeting, none had been returned and there was concern that this might reflect badly on the ABA should it and its members be perceived not to be co-operating fully.

One member, the council was told, “apparently had no record of purchasers of three of the books which must have been priced at several thousand pounds each”.

The council determined to use the newsletter to remind members of their obligations under the ABA Code of Practice to return stolen books to their rightful owner and to emphasise the importance of insurance against defective title.

Some books would already have been sold on – perhaps more than once – but ATG understands that some returns have now been agreed in principle. Richard Thompson Insurance, who manage the ABA scheme and act for four of those ABA members concerned, said that they would recover their original outlay, including buyer’s premium, for items returned or sold on and now untraceable, but as with other types of insurance, some losses would be sustained via excesses.

Where books that are no longer traceable are concerned, the underwriters have arranged to buy title from Sir Evelyn and will thus own any books that are subsequently returned.

The ABA also decided to advise any collectors who had had books stolen that they should approach the saleroom for redress – but only after seeking their own legal advice.

In their turn, Dominic Winter have consulted counsel, and while the case remains too complex at present to offer a black-and-white resolution, they wrote in mid-May to all purchasers, pointing out that while they take every precaution regarding title – all vendors must sign up to this effect – they do not guarantee lots. In this instance, they say that they too have been victims of the deceit and their advice to clients is that any claims should be made against David Slade.

by Ian McKay