Saxon gold discoverers lied to court, says jury

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The Independent Online
A GOLD Anglo-Saxon sword pommel valued at up to pounds 1.2m was not found on an East Yorkshire beach, as two treasure-hunters claimed, a jury decided yesterday.

Instead, it was found 15 miles away on agricultural land belonging to Trinity House at Melton, near Hull, the inquest jury said. John Sutton and his son-in-law, Nigel Wilding, said they found the relic in a clay boulder on the foreshore near the village of Aldbrough.

Mr Sutton told the Hull inquest Mr Wilding was using a toy metal detector, bought for his grandson, when he received the signal which led them to their discovery. But a fellow enthusiast, Ernest Graves, who had been to Melton with Mr Sutton the day before, was suspicious. The day before the inquest was originally due to be held, he contacted the Hull and East Riding coroner, Geoffrey Saul, who called for a police investigation. Mr Sutton and Mr Wilding stuck by their story. They were arrested on suspicion of attempting to obtain property by deception but no charges were brought.

Malcolm Lillie, a geoarchaeologist from Hull University, said the chances of an object being found in one of the "armoured clay balls" at Aldbrough was "one in a million." He was 99.9 per cent certain the pommel could not have been found in the manner described by Mr Sutton and his son-in-law.

The inquest heard earlier that Mr Graves, who said he had agreed to share the proceeds of any finds while out detecting with Mr Sutton, did not believe the toy detector could located the pommel in a clay boulder. "It would not pick up a dustbin lid." The jury delivered their verdict that the pommel, which met the criteria for being classed as treasure, was found by Mr Sutton at Melton on 12 November 1997.

Afterwards Mr Wilding said: "I came here telling the truth and I'll leave here telling the truth." As he stormed out of the building Mr Sutton said: "That's their opinion." The Treasure Valuation Committee will now value the pommel, while officials will be left to decide who, if anyone, will receive a reward for finding it.