Thieves ordered to pay £1.2m after stealing ancient treasure hoard

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Two metal detectorists who stole a £3million hoard of buried treasure from the Anglo-Saxon period have been ordered to repay £1.2million between them after shifting part of the collection on the black market. George Powell, 41, and Layton Davies, 54, came across a stunning collection of Anglo-Saxon coins, jewellery and silver ingots back in 2015. But instead of declaring everything they discovered, which is a requirement under the Treasure Act 1996, the two men simply handed over three “valueless” coins.

They now have until March 21 to pay back over £600k each following a confiscation Order made at Worcester Crown Court last Wednesday. If they fail to fork out the cash within three months, they face an extra five years and four months of jail time on top of their current 18-year sentence.

The stolen coins were part of a 1,100-year-old collection from the reign of King Alfred. Experts have said the coins were of huge national significance for Anglo-Saxon coinage and had the capability to “rewrite history”.

Other items found included a ninth-century gold ring, a dragon’s head bracelet, a silver ingot, a fifth crystal rock pendant as well as the 300 coins.

The pair made the find at Eye Court Farm, near Leominster in Herefordshire. They then “clumsily” dug up the treasure without declaring the full extent of their discovery.

Since then, only 31 of the coins – thought to be worth between £10,000 and £50,000 – and pieces of jewellery have ever been recovered. The large bulk of the hoard is still yet to be rediscovered.

By law, all treasure found in the UK belongs to the Crown. A Treasure Valuation Committee is supposed to determine how it should be shared between the finder and the landowner or tenant.

But Police have said that the duo sold a large number of the items for significant personal financial gain, shifting them in small batches to different customers on the black market.

The authorities also found photographs on Mr Davies’ mobile phone which showed the trove all together as one in a dug hole. The two men were found of theft, conspiracy to conceal criminal property and conspiracy to convert criminal property on November 21, 2019.

Mr Powell and Mr Davies were sentenced to ten years and eight years and six months respectively, but this was later shortened to six years and five years following a successful appeal.

Now, Mr Powell is required to cough up £601,250 and Davies £603,180 in full within three months from December 21.

Superintendent Edd Williams, local policing commander for Herefordshire, said: “I’m delighted with today’s result, which brings closure to an investigation which we have been working on for seven years.

“The Confiscation Order, coupled with the sentences Powell and Davies received, send a strong and clear message that we take this sort of crime very seriously and will take action. It is a criminal offence to not declare finds of treasure to the local coroner’s office.

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“I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank our partners, including Herefordshire County Council’s conservation and environment team and The British Museum, for their support in bringing this case to a successful conclusion.”

Paul Wells, 60, An antiques dealer also conspired with the pair to conceal the hoard of ancient buried treasure. A court heard that Mr Wells inspected some of the items and pocketed five coins worth up to £75,000 in the handle of a magnifying glass which he later gave to the police.

Mr Powell, a warehouse worker from Newport in Wales, was previously jailed for six years for theft and four years for conspiracy to conceal and convert, amounting to ten years. Mr Davies, a school caretaker from Pontypridd in Wales, was put in prison for eight-and-a-half years after receiving five-and-a-half years for theft and three years for concealing the treasure.

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