A military historian accused of stealing a logbook from a Dambusters widow has denied the claims against him.

Former Harrow High School employee Alex Bateman, 48, of Headstone Lane, appeared at Wood Green Crown Court on Monday charged with theft.

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Bateman 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 Mrs Fraser’s 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.

Batemen, who denies one count of theft, was bailed ahead of his trial due to begin on January 9 next year.