Man found guilty of possessing antique books from Carton House

Andrew Shannon (51) said texts were bought at a fair and were used to decorate his house

A man has been found guilty of possessing 67 stolen antique books, including an extremely rare King James Bible.

Andrew Shannon (51) was accused of illegally handling the books which originated in the library of Carton House in Kildare, the historical family seat of the FitzGerald family.

The books, including a 1660 edition of the King James Bible of which only six exist, went missing after they were put in storage during the restoration of the country house.

Gardaí say they were later found in the house of Shannon during a search. Shannon told investigators that he bought the books at a fair or fete for about Irl£300 and was using them to decorate his house.

Shannon of Willans Way, Ongar, Dublin pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to possession of the books at his home while knowing or being reckless as to whether they were stolen on March 3rd, 2007.

After a five day trial and just under four hours of deliberation the jury returned a unanimous verdict of guilty.

Under the new EU directive on victims, transposed into Irish law last November, Judge Petria McDonnell invited the owners of Carton House to provide a victim impact report for the sentence hearing next April.

Restoration work

Conor Mallaghan gave evidence during the trial that he has worked at Carton House since 1994 overseeing its restoration after his father’s company bought the estate in 1977. He said that before restoration work began, he put all items in the house, including the library books, into storage.

He said he photographed each book before storing it.

The books remained in boxes until 2006 when the process of restoring them to the library began. Mr Mallaghan said it was then he noticed the missing books and went to the gardai­.

He agreed with counsel that in 2007 he went to the garda station with his father to identify several books which had been found.

Mr Mallaghan was shown three of the antique books in court including a large edition of the King James Bible. He told counsel he identified them by the FitzGerald family crest which was on their spine and inside the cover.

Mr Mallaghan explained that the crest featured a monkey which according to legend saved one of the FitzGeralds after waking him up in a burning building.

Mr Mallaghan said some of the books dated from the middle of the 17th century “and beyond”. He told counsel that his family had never sold or lent out any of the 67 books nor had they given anyone permission to remove them from the house aside from the storage company.