Kevin Hegarty QC and Simon Phillips secure successful prosecution in multi-million pound Viking hoard case

Metal Detectorists Prosecution
Written by:

James Withers


In the USA it is called “Time Crime” and it is an accurate way to describe the case that Kevin Hegarty QC and Simon Phillips concluded last Friday at Worcester Crown Court.

Powell and Davies in 2015 stumbled across a Viking hoard in farmland near Leominster and instead of following their obligation to report the matter to a local museum decided to steal the gold jewellery, silver ingots and silver coins. They then conspired with Wells and Wicks to conceal the hoard and with Wicks to convert the hoard into money.

Their plans started to go wrong when they received an email from a Finds Liaison Officer asking them to declare what they had found. Two days later they made a partial declaration and presented the gold but only a tiny fraction of the coins. They were unable to make a full declaration as by then a substantial number of coins had been delivered to Wicks from Sussex and taken into the coin auctioneers Dix Noonan Webb in Mayfair. In the meantime, Wells had concealed five coins within a leather pouch around a magnifying glass.

The expert evidence in the case showed that each of the coin from the period 875-879 AD is a unique piece of work. The two kings: Alfred of Wessex and Ceolwulf II of Mercia shared a common styles of coin design namely Cross and Lozenge and Two Emperors. On each coin is the name of the “moneyer” and by careful analysis of thumbnail pictures that had been deleted at least three further coins were identified as having been part of the hoard that had been dispersed by the defendants.

Three defendants were sentenced on 22nd November 2019 to between 5 and 10 years’ imprisonment. Had they followed the law they would have enjoyed a substantial reward but greed took over. As it stands this substantial hoard will never be reassembled and the interpretation of the silver coins, buried at the time when the kingdoms of Wessex and Mercia were uniting in the formation of England, can never be properly explored and explained.

Written by James Withers