Four men found guilty in relation to treasure hoard worth more than £3million
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Following an extensive West Mercia Police investigation in relation to a treasure hoard worth more than £3million discovered near Eye in Herefordshire, two men have been found guilty of theft, conspiring to conceal criminal property and conspiring to convert criminal property.
A third man has been found guilty of conspiring to conceal criminal property and conspiring to convert criminal property and a fourth man has been found guilty of conspiring to conceal criminal property.
They appeared at Worcester Crown Court following a trial that lasted just over 6 weeks and will be sentenced tomorrow.
George Powell, 38, of Coulson Close, Newport, was found guilty of theft, conspiracy to conceal criminal property and conspiracy to convert criminal property.
Layton Davies, 51, of Cardiff Road, Hawthorn, Pontypridd, was found guilty of theft, conspiracy to conceal criminal property and conspiracy to convert criminal property.
Simon Wicks, 57, of Hawks Road, Halisham, East Sussex, was found guilty conspiracy to conceal criminal property and conspiracy to convert criminal property.
Paul Wells, 60, on Newport Road, Rumney, Cardiff was found guilty of conspiracy to conceal criminal property.
West Mercia Police was alerted to the possibility of an unreported large treasure find by various reports from the metal detecting community and the British Museum. A find such as this should be reported to the local Coroner’s office, in this case Herefordshire, under the terms of the Treasure Act (1996).
During the investigation, which began in June 2015, Herefordshire detectives unearthed that Powell and Davies had visited the site at which the hoard, including Anglo-Saxon coins, jewellery and silver ingots, was found earlier that month (June 2015).
The treasure is described as of national importance both for Anglo-Saxon coinage and for the wider understanding of a key period in English history.
Herefordshire Local policing commander, Superintendent Sue Thomas said: This has been a lengthy and detailed investigation that I am pleased to see has resulted in four men being found guilty of the crimes and we await sentencing tomorrow.”
She continued: “I hope the result from this trial demonstrates to the metal detecting community we take this sort of crime very seriously. It is a criminal offence to not declare finds of treasure to the local coroner’s office.”
Detective Constable Nigel Cleeton, investigating officer for the operation said: “In all my policing years of service this is the most unusual investigation I have been involved in. We have had archaeologist advisers from Herefordshire County Council’s conservation and environment team, the British Museum and a plethora of experts to help identify items.”
He continued: “We believe there are coins outstanding and would appeal to anyone that may have come across these items or has any information to get in touch via 101.”
Gareth Williams, Curator of Medieval Coins and Viking Collections at the British Museum said “I am pleased that this case has now been resolved after four years of police investigation. This is an unusual and important find, both in terms of what it can tell us about the history of the period, and because some of the individual objects are so rare and beautiful.”
He continued: “Discoveries such as this are an important part of our national heritage, and the Treasure Act (1996) is designed to ensure that such finds can be acquired by museums for the benefit of the general public, rather than being quietly sold on the black market.
“Britain has the most generous system in the world for rewarding finders when they follow the law. Unfortunately this needs to be balanced with suitable penalties when they do not.”
The hoard contained a mixture of intact ornaments, bullion and coins, which is typical of Viking hoards of the 9thand 10thcenturies in Britain. It included a pendant made from a sphere of rock crystal bound with gold, a gold finger-ring, a gold arm-ring, silver ingots (bars) and coins.
Amongst the coins were several examples of a type which is helping scholars to rewrite English history. The two Emperors type was issued by King Alfred the Great of Wessex (871-99) and his lesser known contemporary Ceolwulf II of Mercia (874-9), and shows two Roman emperors standing side by side, symbolising an alliance between the two kings. Historical sources, mostly written at Alfred’s court some years later, portray Ceolwulf in a very different light, as a puppet of the Vikings. Although other examples have been found since the Eye hoard, the type was only known at that point from a single example in the name of each king.
Court case started on 30 September.
*Photo Top L-R George Dennis Powell, Simon David Wicks, Bottom L-R Layton Allan Davies, Paul Wells