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Detectorists stole a £3m Viking hoard

Friday 22 November 2019

George Powell and Layton Davies dug up about 300 coins in a field in Eye, near Leominster, Herefordshire, in 2015 and did not declare the 1,100-year-old find, said to be one of the biggest to date, and instead sold it to dealers.

They were convicted of theft and concealing their find along with coin sellers Simon Wicks and Paul Wells who were also convicted on the concealment charge.

The hoard included a 9th Century gold ring, a dragon's head bracelet, a silver ingot, and a crystal rock pendant. Just 31 coins - worth between £10,000 and £50,000 - and some pieces of jewellery have been recovered, but the majority is still missing.

Gareth Williams, curator of early medieval coins at the British Museum said: "These coins enable us to re-interpret our history at a key moment in the creation of England as a single kingdom. It will be so easy for important objects just to slip through the net, mostly due to individuals' greed."

When Powell and Davies made their discovery in June 2015, they did not inform the farmer who owned the field and instead contacted dealers to find out the worth of the items. A month later, they contacted the National Museum of Wales but only declared one coin each and three items of jewellery.

Both men claimed talk of a 300-coin hoard had been a rumour, but suspicions were aroused, and police began to investigate. They recovered deleted photos on Davies's phone which showed the hoard intact in a freshly dug hole.

Wicks, Powell, and Davies were also found guilty of converting the stolen hoard into cash after police traced several coins that had been sold to private collectors.

Amanda Blakeman, Deputy Chief Constable for Gwent Police, who has recently been appointed as the national leader for heritage and cultural crime and has established police and expert networks to help tackle complex and protracted investigations in the future said: "The men were looking to criminally profit from removing the historical footprint of our country. We must recover that property and we must cut off those markets that are available to be able to disperse our history, not only across this country but across the world,"