Ancient buried treasure worth £3m was found with a metal detector on a farm by men who then conspired with others to conceal the find.

George Powell, from Newport, and Layton Davies, from Pontypridd, have been convicted 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, were also convicted of conspiring to conceal the treasure, which was found on farmland near Leominster, in Herefordshire.

The valuable find – much of which is still missing – was said to include a gold ring, bracelet and silver ingot from the ninth century, a crystal rock pendant from the fifth century, and 300 coins, some dating to the reign of King Alfred. 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 during their trial.

Only 31 of the coins have been recovered although mobile phone photographs – later deleted but subsequently recovered by police – showed the larger hoard, still intact, in a freshly-dug hole.

All treasure found in the UK belongs to the Crown and a Treasure Valuation Committee decides how it should be shared among the finder and land owner or tenant. But the court heard how 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 Powell and Davies were 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, told Worcester Crown Court that 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 Powell, 38, at one point came to her door to tell her he had found “something valuable” in her field. But she said she heard nothing more of it.

George Powell
Layton Davies denied failing to declare a find of buried treasure

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.

He told the court 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 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 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. 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.”

Paul Wells, of Cardiff, pictured outside court
Simon Wicks also denied conspiracy to conceal criminal property

The court 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.

Davies, who chose to give evidence in his defence, claimed he and Powell dug the jewellery out of two separate holes but photographs taken on his phone and later deleted clearly showed the trove as one.

He also alleged Powell had then planted some coins, which he already owned, in the hole for “staged” photographs to give the items greater provenance and value.

One of the images appeared to show many more silver ingots than the one recovered by police but the men claimed these were simply bullet casings.

Both men also claimed talk of a 300-coin hoard had been a rumour, insisting that the only coins they found were declared to the National Museum Wales, in Cardiff, at a meeting on July 8.

However they were undone by evidence including deleted photos of a much larger hoard on Davies’ phone and the recovery of various coins, including five concealed in a magnifying glass case and volunteered to police by Wells.

Powell, of Newport, and 51-year-old Davies, of Pontypridd, pleaded not guilty to theft but were convicted by a jury on Thursday.

The pair, along with Wells, of Rumney, Cardiff, and Wicks, of Hailsham, East Sussex, all denied conspiracy to conceal criminal property but all four were found guilty of the charge.

Wicks, Powell, and Davies were also found guilty of converting their ill-gotten gains into cash after police traced several coins that had been sold on to private collectors, hidden away, or left with expert valuers.

Five of the coins are examples of the exceptionally rare Two Emperors penny, valued at up to £50,000 apiece, and so-called as they depict King Alfred and a lesser known monarch, Ceolwulf II, who reigned in the old kingdom of Mercia, sitting together.

Some of the treasure that was recovered
Some of the treasure that was recovered

Expert analysis of all the jewellery and coinage recovered to date and now held at the British Museum returned a valuation of at least £581,000.

As to the fate of the rest of the coins and items in the hoard, prosecuting barrister Kevin Hegarty QC told jurors: “They have not been found.

“They must be concealed in one or more places or by now having been concealed have been dispersed never to be reassembled as a hoard of such coinage again.”

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All four men were convicted of ignoring the law stating such finds must be properly declared in a bid to sell the items in small batches.

Powell, of Kirby Lane, Newport; Davies, of Cardiff Road, Pontypridd; Wells, of Newport Road, Cardiff‌; and Wicks, of Hawks Road, Hailsham, East Sussex, will be sentenced at a later date.