01/23/2013 06:21 EST | Updated 03/25/2013 05:12 EDT

N.S. police seize hoard of rare books, art from man's house

Police in Nova Scotia are combing through hundreds of rare books, one-of-a-kind documents and artwork from a suburban home in Halifax that they believe are stolen goods.

Mounties say they’ve found almost 1,000 artifacts and antiques at the home of John Mark Tillmann in Fall River. They suspect he amassed the collection over two decades.

The 51-year-old has been charged with four counts of possession of stolen property. On Wednesday, police officers loaded boxes of artifacts into a rented U-haul trailer.

RCMP Cpl. Scott MacRae said Tillmann's collection was set up like a private museum.

"[There's] old documents, there's antiques, there's things like a medieval suit of amour, old carvings, paintings," he said. "One painting was … from the Nova Scotia legislature."

The artifacts include an 1819 painting and a first edition of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species.

Theresa Kuhn, Tillmann's former partner and the mother of their toddler, said in an interview with CBC News that she became suspicious about items in his home and tipped off police in May 2012.

Kuhn said coming forward has taken a huge toll on her: "I have suffered, and my family has suffered tremendously. I have risked a lot. It's beyond words."

Investigators say they believe much of what they found in the home was stolen, but they remain a long way from understanding his involvement in acquiring them.

Uttering threats

Police have also seized items from businesses and collectors to whom Tillman is connected. Officers said they are also working with the FBI.

Last November, Tillmann was charged with 14 counts of assault and uttering threats against Kuhn and her dog.

He posted the $15,000 cash bail to spring himself from jail. Just one month earlier, he was unable to repay an auto body shop in Upper Sackville after defrauding the owner of $1, 900 for repairs on his BMW, court documents allege.

He claimed he was unable to work and needed more time to settle his fine, blaming a justice worker for his financial hardship.

Tillmann is due in provincial court Thursday to face charges.