Hailsham man sentenced after involvement in £3 million Viking treasure theft

George Powell and Simon Wicks. Photo courtesy of the police SUS-191126-143606001
George Powell and Simon Wicks. Photo courtesy of the police SUS-191126-143606001

A Hailsham man has been found guilty for his role in a £3 million Viking treasure theft and sentenced to five years in prison.

An extensive West Mercia Police investigation discovered the hoard near Eye in Herefordshire.

Layton Davies and Paul Wells SUS-191126-143658001

Layton Davies and Paul Wells SUS-191126-143658001

According to police, three out of four men appeared at Worcester Crown Court following a six-week trial and were sentenced on November 22 to a combined total of 23 years in prison. The fourth man will be sentenced on December 23.

Simon Wicks, 57, of Hawks Road, Hailsham, was found guilty of conspiracy to conceal criminal property and conspiracy to convert criminal property received five years, say police.

George Powell, 38, of Coulson Close, Newport, was found guilty of theft, conspiracy to conceal criminal property and conspiracy to convert criminal property. He received a total of 10 years in prison, according to police.

Layton Davies, 51, of Cardiff Road, Hawthorn, Pontypridd, was found guilty of theft, conspiracy to conceal criminal property and conspiracy to convert criminal property, according to police, and received a total of eight-and-a-half years.

Police said Paul Wells, 60, of Newport Road, Rumney, Cardiff, was found guilty of conspiracy to conceal criminal property and will be sentenced on December 23.

Police believe there are outstanding coins and they are appealing to anyone from the metal detectorists community, coin dealers, as well as the wider community, that may have seen treasure from this hoard to contact West Mercia Police.

Superintendent Sue Thomas, Herefordshire local policing commander, said, “This unusual investigation is one of national significance and I am pleased to see the three men who were found guilty yesterday have now been given a combined total of 23 years in prison.

“I hope this demonstrates how seriously we take this sort of crime in Herefordshire and it is a criminal offence to not declare finds of treasure to the local coroner’s office.”

Detective Constable Nigel Cleeton, investigating officer for the operation, said, “In all my policing years of service this is the most unusual investigation I have been involved in.

“I am pleased to see such a substantial sentence for the individuals who stole and concealed parts of the treasure hoard found in Eye, Herefordshire.

“I do believe there are coins outstanding and I would ask anyone within the community of metal detectorists or coin dealers as well as the wider community that may have seen or heard of the whereabouts of coins from this hoard to contact me at West Mercia Police.”

Police revealed that during the investigation, which began in June 2015, detectives unearthed that Powell and Davies had visited the site at which the hoard, including Anglo-Saxon coins, jewellery and silver ingots, was found earlier that month.

The treasure is described as of national importance both for Anglo-Saxon coinage and for the wider understanding of a key period in English history.

Gareth Williams, curator of medieval coins and Viking collections at the British Museum, said, “I am pleased this case has now been resolved after four years of police investigation.

“This is an unusual and important find, both in terms of what it can tell us about the history of the period, and because some of the individual objects are so rare and beautiful.

“Discoveries such as this are an important part of our national heritage, and the Treasure Act (1996) is designed to ensure that such finds can be acquired by museums for the benefit of the general public, rather than being quietly sold on the black market.

“Britain has the most generous system in the world for rewarding finders when they follow the law. Unfortunately this needs to be balanced with suitable penalties when they do not.”