Daughter of Dambusters airman vows: I will not give up hope of finding log book
The daughter of an RAF airman from the Dambusters squadron has said she will not give up hope of finding his stolen logbook after a military historian was jailed for its theft.
Alexander Bateman, 48, of Headstone Lane, Harrow, north-west London, was sentenced to two years in prison on Friday at Wood Green Crown Court, north London, after being found guilty at a trial in January.
The treasured log book worth £10,000, which belonged to the late Sergeant John Fraser, was lent to Bateman by his widow, Doris Fraser, in 1996 for research - but he lied repeatedly after he was asked to return it.
Bateman has refused to divulge the memento's whereabouts and it has not yet been found.
Sergeant Fraser's daughter, Shere Lowe, 60, who has flown over from Washington in the United States, blasted Bateman for his "cruel charade" and urged anyone who had the book to come forward.
Speaking outside court she said: "My father was a great and brave man. To the world he may have been a hero, to us he was so much more, he was devoted husband and he was Dad.
"The stolen log book to anyone else is just a commodity. To us, it was a reminder of a loved and cherished man.
"Due to the greed of a dishonest man, an integral part of our family's history has been stolen from us."
She added: "It can't be sold on now, and will forever be hunted until it is back with my family. It belongs to its rightful owners.
"I hope that Mr Bateman reflects on and finds it in his heart to disclose the whereabouts of my father's log book."
The court heard that Bateman had produced a copy of the log book on the final day of the trial, despite previously insisting he had never reproduced it.
The family have since seen the document but Ms Lowe said she believes they could still find the original.
"I always believe there is a chance and that is what kept me going for 14 years - I believe and I have faith and I have not stopped," she said.
Sentencing, Judge John Dodd QC described it as a "despicable offence" and said Bateman abused the trust placed in him and misled the family.
The court heard Bateman had previously been cautioned for theft in February 2003 for stealing two documents and a badge from the National Archives.
He was also convicted in May last year for six counts of making indecent images of children and one count of possession.
Ms Lowe had been unaware her mother, 92, had lent the log book to Bateman until 2003, and promptly asked for its return.
But when an envelope arrived from Bateman it had been carefully cut open at the bottom.
Her mother was "physically sick" when she realised the item was missing, Ms Lowe said.
Bateman initially claimed the log book must have been lost, but later said he had recovered it.
He then told the family he had been gifted the book by Ms Fraser.
In June 2003, after being told a report on the missing log book would appear in the national press, he reported a burglary at his address and alleged intruders had stolen it.
In an emotional statement from the dock, Ms Lowe said: "I had every reason at the start to believe that this man was a historian and wanted to uphold the legacy of the Dambusters.
"The action that followed - the deception and the cruel charade, the lies, it's had its weight on our family."
Sgt Fraser, who was born in Canada, was a member of 617 Squadron and took part in the Dambusters raids in the Second World War.
His plane was shot down and he was held as a prisoner of war after being interrogated by the Germans.
After the war he moved to Canada with his wife, but died in 1962 in an air accident, leaving three children behind.
Outside court, Ms Lowe said it was important that relics of the war were not treated as "commodities".
"What we value most is upholding his memory and his legacy and his courage," she said.
"For future generations, the log book details his missions, it details his whole service.
"War is terrible but what is important is that we recognise the courage, the bravery, and we never abuse it - we never treat these items as a commodity.
"I know there are good historians and I know there are honest collectors out there. I'm not out to say anything bad about that. But what I want is a balance of respect and trust maintained."