Window cleaner jailed for stealing Winston Churchill’s manuscripts

A man has been jailed after stealing manuscripts by famous figures including Sir Winston Churchill, Virginia Woolf, James Joyce and TS Eliot from the Paddington home of an eminent bookseller.

Tyrone Somers, 41, was working as a handyman and window cleaner for rare book dealer Rick Gekoski when he stole a number of unique documents worth almost �36,000.

Mr Gekoski, who is currently chairman of judges for the Booker International Prize, had arranged for Somers to carry out some maintenance work in his house while he was away for the weekend of July 23.

When he returned on Monday July 25, Mr Gekoski discovered a number of “extremely valuable items” had been taken including a speech by prime minister Churchill, typed letters and Christmas cards by poet Eliot and documents from writer Kingsley Amis.

University-educated Somers had not completed any of the tasks he had been given and when he could not be traced, police officers issued an appeal for his arrest.

The following week he emailed a social worker and confessed to his crimes. He later handed himself in to Belgravia police station and returned the documents to the police.

A sufferer of bipolar disorder, Somers told police he had been advised that going to prison would solve his psychological problems.

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He said he had entered the house at about 5am on Saturday July 23 intending to complete the work, but decided to steal the items once he was inside.

Prosecutor Abigail White told the court Somers had gone “into the house and for a short time he battled with these thoughts”.

Somers also stole a laptop, which he sold, and �100 in cash, as well as the 31 manuscripts.

His lawyer, Julia Farrant, said her client had pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity and had returned “the most valuable items in terms of their financial value and cultural heritage”.

She said: “This was a cry for help from someone struggling. Mr Somers has shown extreme remorse for his actions, has co-operated with police and returned the most valuable property.”

Somers was sentenced to 30 months in prison and recommended he be placed on suicide watch.