Metal detectors guilty of conspiracy to sell Anglo-Saxon coins | UK News
Two metal detectors have been found guilty of plotting to sell Anglo-Saxon coins of “immense historical importance” abroad.
Craig Best, 46, and Roger Pilling, 75, have been convicted of conspiring to sell £766,000 of criminal property, namely coins from the 9 the Crown.
The pair have also been convicted on separate charges of possession of the criminal property, which was believed to have been part of a larger undeclared find known as the Herefordshire Hoard.
Best of South View, Bishop Auckland, was arrested in an undercover police operation with three coins at a Durham hotel in May 2019.
He thought he was meeting with a metals expert employed by a broker who works for a wealthy US buyer, but he was actually speaking with an undercover detective.
Pilling, who owned an engineering firm, was arrested at his home in Loveclough, Lancashire and a further 41 coins were confiscated.
Those coins came from the Herefordshire hoard discovered in 2015 and worth millions of pounds, which was also undeclared, Durham Crown Court heard.
Four people have already been convicted for their role in covering up this find.
The case could change the way historians understand history, an expert said.
Previously, the last king of Mercia, Ceolwulf II, who reigned in the 9th century, was dismissed as a Viking puppet.
But Roman-style ‘Two Emperors’ pennies sold conspiringly by Craig Best and Roger Pilling show Ceolwulf alongside King Alfred of neighboring Wessex, who would come to be known as Alfred the Great.
Experts say that means Ceolwulf must have been in an alliance with Alfred – before he was largely written out of history by Alfred’s court, much like Stalin obliterated Trotsky.
Ceolwulf disappeared from history in AD 879 with no indication of what became of him, and a few years later Alfred is said to rule much of Ceolwulf’s former kingdom without explaining how he got it.
Historians now believe the coins show that the established image of Alfred the Great as the hero who almost single-handedly saved England from the Vikings is only part of the story.
They speculate that the truth is less credible than Alfred’s historians would have us believe.
Following the sentencing, Detective Superintendent Lee Gosling said: “This is an extremely unusual case as we don’t get the chance to make a mark on British history very often.
“It is amazing that the history books have to be rewritten because of this find.
“These coins come from a hoard of immense historical importance relating to the Vikings and we are delighted that they are now in the British Museum.
“This has been a lengthy and complex investigation and I would like to thank our specialist officials and historical experts for all their help.”
dr Gareth Williams, a coin expert at the British Museum, said: “New finds have the potential to expand our knowledge.
“The coins are an essential part of our heritage.
“Theft of finds like this is not just theft of landowners who have rights, it is theft of our heritage.”
Judge James Adkin said the sentencing was “complicated” because the offense is rare, and he adjourned the case until Thursday.
As he took Best and Pilling into custody, he told the couple: “They have both been convicted on what I believe to be compelling evidence of serious criminal activity in relation to these artifacts.
“You both know what the penalty is likely to be, years in prison.”
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