A military historian from Harrow has appeared in court over accusations he stole a valuable logbook from the widow of a Dambusters hero.

Alex Bateman, 48, of Headstone Lane, persuaded Doris Fraser, who lives in Canada, to send him the sentimentally valuable item to help with research for his latest book on the famous air raid squadron.

The logbook – valued at around £20,000 – belonged to her late husband Flight Sergeant John Fraser, whose plane was shot down in Germany in 1943.

Mrs Fraser sent Mr Bateman the logbook in 1996 but reported him to police in 2003 after several letters and emails pleading for the book’s return were ignored.

At first Mr Bateman said he had returned the item and claimed it must have been lost in transit. He then allegedly forged a Christmas card in which handed over the RAF logbook as a gift.

When he was contacted by several newspapers asking for a comment on the alleged theft, he reported a burglary at his home.

Mr Bateman appeared at Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court via video link on Monday, July 18. He denies one count of theft and will appear in Wood Green Crown Court for a plea and trial preparation hearing on August 15.