Metal detectorist ‘finds £3 million treasure hoard, gives landowner three coins and hides most of it’

George Powell accused of concealing discovery and selling some items on black market

Mark Cardwell
Monday 07 October 2019 08:27 BST
Metal detectorist ‘finds £3 million treasure hoard, gives landowner three coins and hides most of it’

A metal detectorist who dug up £3m worth of ancient buried treasure only handed over three “not particularly valuable” coins to the owner of the land where it was found, a court heard.

George Powell, 38, and Layton Davies, 51, are accused of failing to declare an invaluable hoard of Anglo-Saxon coins and jewellery they discovered in June 2015.

The pair, along with Paul Wells, 60, and Simon Wicks, 57, are accused of conspiring to conceal the treasure, which was found on farmland near Leominster, in Herefordshire.

By law, they should have reported the discovery, but instead proceeded to sell the items in small batches to various customers on the black market, jurors were told.

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.

All treasure found in the UK belongs to the Crown and a Treasure Valuation Committee, which decides how it should shared among the finder and land owner or tenant.

But a court was told on Friday how Mr Powell only handed over three coins he found to the owner of the land and those were “not particularly valuable”.

They were not coins from the era of King Alfred, which Mr Powell and Mr Davies are accused of finding and concealing, the court was told.

Yvonne Conod, who owns a cottage and field near Eye Court Farm, where the hoard was discovered, took to the stand to give evidence at Worcester Crown Court.

She said Mr Powell had asked her if he could use his metal detector on her field in 2015, and she agreed.

She saw his car on several occasions, and said Mr Powell at one point came to her door to tell her he had found “something valuable” in her field, but heard nothing more of it.

Mrs Conod said: “The first time he came to the door there was nobody with him. He had a car and he asked if he could go into my field. I said ‘yes that’s fine’.

“I did not think there was anything wrong about it. I saw his car there on a number of other occasions. When he came with the coins he was on his own. He said he had found something and he gave me three coins.

“I never saw the other man until a long time after. The man said he thought they found something of value and I never thought any more about it.”

She said at one point she saw photos of the jewellery found but was not sure who had shown them to her.

The jury also heard from Mrs Conod’s son Mark, a tenant farmer who farms Eye Court Farm, consisting of 208 acres of land belonging to Lord Cawley.

Metal detectorist ‘ecstatic’ after find on farm turns out to be ultra-rare Roman coin fetching £552,000 at auction

He told the court Mr Powell also approached him to ask if he could use his detector at the farm, which is used for dairy and crops including maize, in May 2015.

Mr Conod said Mr Powell dropped off some coins he said he found with his wife Amanda, and told them he had found something of value on his mother’s land.

He claimed Mr Powell had sent photos of a bracelet and ring, but never showed him the items and did not disclose the 300 coins they had found.

Mr Conod said: “In May time [2015] I spoke to someone about metal detecting on the land I farm. It was one person, a stranger.

“I said ‘yes’ at the time. I described to him which fields he could go on. I saw him once in a field after that. He was just on his own with a metal detector.

“A couple of weeks after, he showed me some coins he found. He left them with my wife. He was on his own when he came to the house with the bits and pieces. He sent pictures.

“I only heard from him again when he said he had found something on mum’s field. He said he found a bracelet and a ring. He never showed us the items. He never told us about coins.

“He said he had reported them to a museum. I presume they were in a museum. He did not produce them.

Support free-thinking journalism and attend Independent events

“He said they [the ring and bracelet] were Anglo Saxon and he was excited. I did not know if they were valuable, I didn’t have a clue. It was mum’s field where he said he found it.”

The court previously heard the defendants deliberately concealed the find so they could cash in on the fortune and pocket the proceeds.

The hoard was estimated to have been hidden in the ground more than 1,100 years ago and came from two separate areas of England.

Mr Powell, of Newport, and Mr Davies, of Pontypridd, have pleaded not guilty to theft. Along with Mr Rumney, of Cardiff, and Mr Wicks, of Hailsham, all four deny conspiracy to conceal criminal property.

Mr Powell, Mr Davies and Mr Wicks are also charged with conspiracy to convert criminal property by selling it.

The trial, which is due to last a month, continues.


Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in