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A group of metal detectorists have been accused of stealing a hoard of Anglo Saxon coins worth an estimated £3 million along with several pieces of “invaluable” ancient jewellery.
George Powell, 38 and Layton Davies, 51, are accused of failing to declare the hoard of 1,000-year-old buried treasure they discovered in ground near Eye Court Farm, Leominster, Herefordshire. 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 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. It is believed that there the total coins found in the hoard had been much higher but some had already been sold in small batches. Photos taken at the scene and which were recovered by police indicated the number of coins to be in excess of 300.
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.
The court heard Powell and Davies were arrested and questioned in August 2015 and then again in June 2016.
Paul Wells was arrested in Sept 2015 and Simon Wicks was arrested in November that same year.
Opening the prosecution’s case, Kevin Hegarty QC said: “This case you are to hear in two words is about buried treasure.
“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 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 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 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 a 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.”
Approx 30 coins plus the jewellery have been recovered by police from the various people the defendants sold them to as well as from their home addresses.
Jurors were told Wicks had hidden some of the coins within the handle of a magnifying glass.
Mr Hegarty said the rest of the hoard could still be at large and may never be brought back together again.
George Powell who is from Newport, Wales and Layton Davies, of Pontypridd have both pleaded not guilty to theft.
All four defendants deny conspiracy to conceal criminal property.
Powell, Davies and Wicks deny conspiracy to convert criminal property by selling it.
The trial continues and is expected to last for one month.
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