A pair of British metal detectorists who found a Viking treasure hoard have been convicted of stealing £3m of coins.

George Powell, 38, and Layton Davies, 51, were found guilty today at Worcester Crown Court of failing to declare the "invaluable" haul.

Prosecutors said the items - many of which were Anglo Saxon but are typical of a Viking burial hoard - were dug up on farmland in Herefordshire on June 2, 2015.

Among the priceless items found was a ninth-century gold ring, a dragon's head bracelet, a silver ingot, a crystal rock pendant from the fifth century and up to 300 coins, some dating back to the reign of King Alfred.

Powell and Davies were convicted alongside two other men, 60-year-old Paul Wells and Simon Wicks, 57, with conspiring to conceal the find.

Some of the 1,000-year-old coins dug up by the pair in a field in Herefordshire
Some of the 1,000-year-old coins dug up by the pair in a field in Herefordshire

The court head that just 31 coins have been recovered, but mobile phone pictures the pair tried to delete showed the larger hoard, still intact, in a freshly dug hole.

Five of the coins found are examples of an incredibly rare Two Emperors penny, valued at up to £50,000 apiece.

They are so-called as they show King Alfred and the lesser-known monarch Ceolwulf II, who reigned in Mercia, sitting together.

Expert analysis of all of the jewellery and coins recovered to date and now held at the British Museum give a value of at least £581,000.

George Powell was convicted at Worcester Crown Court today
George Powell was convicted at Worcester Crown Court today

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As for the rest of the haul, 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."

Davies, who chose to give evidence in his defence, claimed the pair dug the jewellery out of two separate holes, but photos taken on his phone and later deleted clearly showed one huge treasure trove.

He later alleged Powell had planted some of the coins, which he already owned, in the hole for "staged" photos to give the items a greater value.

One of the pictures appeared to show many more silver ingots than the one recovered by police, but the two thieves claimed they were simply bullet casings.

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

But they were found one when deleted photos from Davies' phone revealed a much larger hoard, and the recovery of various coins, including five concealed in a magnifying glass case and offered to police by Wells.

Simon Wicks and Layton Davies flogged some of their ill-gotten gains to private collectors
Simon Wicks and Layton Davies flogged some of their ill-gotten gains to private collectors

All four men were convicted of ignoring the law stating such finds must be properly declared, as an attempt to sell the coins in small batches.

They were also found guilty of selling several coins to private collectors or leaving them with expert valuers.

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