A group of metal detectorists stole Anglo Saxon coins worth £3 million as well as “invaluable” ancient jewellery they found in a field before selling them on the black market, a court heard.
George Powell, 38, and Layton Davies, 51, are accused of failing to declare a priceless hoard of 1,000-year-old buried treasure haul they discovered on farmland in June 2015.
The pair along with Paul Wells, 60, and Simon Wicks, 57, went on trial on Thursday accused of conspiring to conceal the treasure at Worcester Crown Court.
Their valuable find was said to include a gold ring, bracelet and silver ingot from the ninth century, a crystal ball pendant from the fifth century and 300 coins, including some from the era of Alfred the Great.
Jurors were told all four were aware of the law which states buried treasure must be declared, but chose to ignore it and proceeded to sell the items in small batches to a number of customers.
Opening the prosecution’s case, Kevin Hegarty QC said: “This case you are to hear in two words is about buried treasure haul.
“Over 1,100 years ago, before the Norman Conquest, jewellery, coins and ingots were concealed in the ground neat Eye Court Farm near Leominster, Herefordshire.
“They remained there undisturbed for many hundreds of years until June 2015.
“Powell and Davies were out with their metal detectors on farmland at Eye Court Farm.
“They were both experienced at metal detecting, and they found jewellery, coins and ingots. And they knew when they found them that this was no ordinary find.
“They soon learned it was not simply treasure haul but a hoard of very valuable coins.
Such a quantity of coins of this kind would attract collectors from all over the world.
“They decided to treat the find as theirs and not to declare it to the landowner, the tenant farmer and the coroner. In short, they stole it.
“The hoard included a ring which has been looked at by a very eminent specialist from the British Museum who can tell us this is a ring from the ninth century. So a very ancient ring.
“There was also a crystal ball with some very fancy goldwork strips around it. It would have been worn as a pendant. This is from the fifth to the sixth century.
“There was a large bracelet, the sort of thing that would have been worn on the upper arm.
“This is something which would have been made in the ninth century. There was a silver ingot, often used for melting down. It dates from the ninth century.
“You will see images of 30 coins but it’s the prosecution’s case there were many more coins recovered by Powell and Davies, and all we have is a fraction of what was gathered together 1,100 years ago.
“On some of the coins, you can see a lozenge shape sitting within a cross. This is known as a cross and lozenge.
“The size of each coin in a haul is that of a one penny piece.
“Another type of coin has what looks like two heads. This is known as a two emperor. Two emperors are of great value.
“There is also Louis the Pious coin, a very ancient coin from Iran and a silver penny.
“The coins came from two separate areas of England. Some are from the time of King Alfred who at that stage was the King of Wessex.
“Others are from a king you may not have heard of – Ceolwulf.
“At the time Davies and Powell were digging in the ground at Eye Court Farm, they took some pictures and its those pictures that were subsequently recovered and show there were far more than 30 coins in the ground.
“It’s estimated there are something like 300 coins.
“Powell and Davies did not tell the farmers but they did tell Wells, who had an interest in such items.”
The court heard Powell and Davies were arrested and questioned in August 2015 and then again in June 2016.
Wells was arrested on September 10, 2015, while Wicks was arrested in November 2015.
Powell, of Newport, Wales, and Davies, of Pontypridd, Wales, have pleaded not guilty to theft.
Powell, Davies, Wells, of Rumney, Cardiff, and Wicks, of Hailsham, East Sussex, deny conspiracy to conceal criminal property.
Powell, Davies and Wicks deny conspiracy to convert criminal property by selling it.
The trial continues.
Source: The Telegraph