Prosecutors in Oxford, England, say a man stabbed and beat a book dealer to death so he could steal a rare first edition of “The Wind in the Willows,” the Guardian reports. The first edition of the children’s classic, whose text is available for free at Project Gutenberg, is estimated to be worth $64,000.
Michael Danaher is on trial for murder in connection with the death of antiques dealer Adrian Greenwood, who was found dead in his home in April.
The prosecution says Danaher plotted to kill Greenwood for months as part of a plan to steal the dealer’s rare books, including his copy of “The Wind in the Willows.” The book was published in 1908 with text only by British author Kenneth Grahame; later it was published with a variety of illustrations, adapted many times for stage, television and film.
Attorney Oliver Saxby said Danaher attacked the book dealer with a knife that broke during the assault and beat him severely, then “cool as you like, he helped himself to that first edition of ‘The Wind in the Willows,’ and Adrian Greenwood’s phone, and his laptop and his wallet.”
Danaher first learned about Greenwood after he had tried to sell his copy of “The Wind in the Willows” on eBay, prosecutors say.
Officials say he maintained a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet listing what appeared to be robbery targets, including model Kate Moss and novelist Jeffrey Archer; Danaher also had uncovered personal information about television host Simon Cowell. The spreadsheet included “modus” for the targets, with notes of “stun gun” and “ransom.” For Greenwood, Danaher had noted, “Modus: any!! Expected take: rare books.”
Also on Danaher’s computer, police found e-books with the titles “Opening Locks Without Keys” and “The Technique of Silent Killing.”
Danaher has admitted to killing Greenwood but claims it was an act of self-defense. He has yet to present his side of the story to the jury.
Saxby argued that Danaher killed the book dealer so he could steal his belongings. “Cool, calculated, controlled, before, during and after,” Saxby said in court. “And underpinning it all? Greed. It was money he was after.”