A new theft case has made the news: the CBC reported this week that the Fall River, Nova Scotia home of John Mark Tillmann, 51, contained more than 1,300 books, documents and other artifacts believed stolen from multiple collections. After a traffic stop back in June in which stolen documents (including a James Wolfe letter from the collections of Dalhousie University) were found in Tillmann's car, police searched his house and found the additional materials.
An RCMP investigator told the CBC "We believe that items such as books, documents, paintings, antiques were stolen from private collectors around Atlantic Canada, also from local universities, museums and even the legislature."
Tillmann has so far been charged with four counts of unlawful possession of materials worth more than $5,000:
- the 1758 James Wolfe letter from Dalhousie University
- two 19th-century marriage records from the Nova Scotia Provincial Archives
- four books from Mount St. Vincent University (these reportedly include a first edition of Darwin's The Origin of Species stolen from the university before 2009
- an 1819 painting from the collections of the Provincial Building Legislative Library
Nova Scotia police say they've been in contact with authorities in Newfoundland and with the FBI as they work to track down stolen items. News reports suggest that the thefts may have taken place over more than two decades. Police displayed some of the recovered items this week: video here. Dalhousie University archivists said this week that the Wolfe letter had been damaged by tearing off a section of the page which would have contained a library stamp.
Another item recovered is a piece of sheet music from the collections of Memorial University in St. John's, Newfoundland believed stolen for "family reasons" (it was connected to the Tilman family). Joan Ritcey, head of the Centre for Newfoundland Studies, said she recalled Tillmann's visit to the archive.
Tillmann's rap sheet includes fifteen convictions for such deeds as extortion, assault, and fraud. He was already due in court next month on additional charges of assault, forcible confinement, and uttering threats. In a report published Friday, it was revealed that in a parole hearing several years ago, Tillmann admitted that he frequently bought and resold stolen goods.
The RCMP are requesting the public's help in identifying the owners of some of the recovered items, and reportedly will be adding images of the materials here.
Tillmann currently remains in custody, with a bail hearing set for 27 February. Prosecutors oppose Tillmann's release.