Two amateur UK treasure hunters were jailed in 2019 for stealing Viking-era hoard. They were sentenced to long prison terms for stealing a hoard of 1,100-year-old Anglo-Saxon coins and jewellery valued at millions of pounds.
Specialists say the hoard, much of which is still missing, could shed new light on a period when Saxons were battling the Vikings for control of Britain. The trove is believed to have been buried in the late 800s by a member of a Viking army that was being pushed east across England by an alliance of Saxon forces.
Anglo-Saxon coin of Offa, king of Mercia, A.D. 757-796
The collection of gold and silver jewellery and up to 300 coins were dug up in 2015 on farmland in central England by metal detectorists George Powell and Layton Davies. They were convicted of failing to report the hoard, as required by law. Instead, they tried to sell some of the bounty through antiquities dealers. Some of the jewellery and about 30 coins are all that have been recovered. According to the British Treasure Act, anyone who believes they have found a metal object more than 300 years old is required to report it to the authorities within two weeks. A judgment is then made on whether the discovery meets the definition of "treasure." Later, a valuation would be given, rewards may be offered and museums have the chance to claim the objects.
Prosecutor Kevin Hegarty said the hoard's value had been estimated at between 3 million pounds and 12 million pounds, and a find of "immense archaeological, historical and academic value" had been lost to the nation. The hoard, a mix of 800's and 900's objects, included Anglo-Saxon coins, a gold ring and gold band, silver bars, and a crystal rock pendant.
Photographs of the artefacts in a freshly dug hole were found deleted on Mr Davies’s phone by the authorities. Despite a years-long investigation, only 30 of the 300 coins the men are thought to have found have been recovered, in addition to some pieces of jewellery and a silver ingot. The rest of the treasures are missing, presumed hidden or sold.
The hoard "represents a nationally important assemblage created at the time when England was forming and becoming a nation with a single identity under the vision of King Alfred the Great,".
Powell, 38, who was described as having the leading role in the crime, was sentenced to 10 years in prison by a judge at Worcester Crown Court in central England. Davies, 51, received an 8 1/2-year sentence. Two other men were convicted of helping to conceal the find.
Judge Nicholas Cartwright said the irony was that if the two treasure hunters had just reported the find to the authorities, they would have been in line for a reward of a third to half of its value. "You could not have done worse than £500,000 each," he said. "But you wanted more."
The two men have not disclosed the location of the missing items. Powell's lawyer, James Tucker, said his client now "wishes he had never found the treasure because it became both a temptation and a curse,".