NIGHTHAWKERS - THE
ILLEGAL METAL DETECTORISTS
|EYES DOWN | the search for treasure is not just a
walk in the park|
You need a keen eye and plenty of
patience to be a metal detectorist. For one man, his patience has
certainly paid off, but will others be pipped at the post by nighthawks?
Inside Out delves into the world of detectoring.
Meet Mike Rutland, washing repair man to the stars - well,
Inside Out’s Big George at least, and the finder of buried treasure.
Mike is a metal detectorist and his patience finally
paid off after he uncovered very rare, bronze age gold bracelets on a
site near Milton Keynes.
"When I first looked into the hole, I knew it was exciting,
but I lifted out the first of the bracelets and realised how heavy it
was, I swore. It was amazing," says Mike's detectorist partner, Gordon
|Mike and Gordons' patience certainly
paid off when they discovered bronze age bracelets|
These are the first bracelets of their kind to be discovered
in this country and have been valued by the British Museum at an amazing
£290,000 - although Mike insists this is excellent value for money!
Rich in history
And it seems that there is no better place to be a metal
detectorist than East Anglia. Thanks to the rich history of the area and
the non-corrosive soil, there are more finds in this area than anywhere
else in the country.
But before you grab your trowel and head for the nearest
field, take heed, unearthing a discovery is a complicated process, if
you follow the correct channels that is!
All finds must be declared and taken to a local museum
or archaeological centre. The museum then notifies the Site and Monuments
- A find is regarded as treasure if it is:
- more than 300 years old
- more than 10% gold or silver
The finder has to report it to the local coroner within 14 days.
The coroner takes the find to a local museum or archaeological centre.
The museum receiving the find has to notify the Sites and Monuments
If the find is important, the site will be excavated.
If the museum decides to keep the find, the coroner holds an inquest
to decide if it is treasure.
If it is treasure, it is valued by the Treasure Valuation Committee.
The money is shared between the landowner and the finder.
If the museum wants to keep the find, a coroner holds
an inquest to decide if it is treasure.
The independent body, the Treasure Valuation Committee,
are responsible for valuing the treasure and any money is split between
the land owner and the finder.
Mike and Gordon followed such procedures and after two
years of complicated, bureaucratic wrangling, they each received £89,000.
But was it worth all the trouble? Yes - but only just
"It's a relief that it's now over. At one point in the
whole process, I wished we'd never found the hoard."
"We did everything right and it seems as if we were
the find caused endless headaches for Gordon and Mike - their reward
materialised after two years|
So recovering a find may not be as easy as it first seems
and there are some who chose to shun the legal route altogether in favour
of a quicker, more profitable answer.
They are known in the business as ‘nighthawks’.
Nighthawks trespass on to land and any finds are sold
on to unscrupulous dealers, rather than officially declared.
The nighthawks are unintentionally aided by the Treasure
Act of 1996, which stipulates that all finds must be published, thereby
alerting rogue detectorists to sites.
Nighthawks also gain information by joining legitimate
metal detectors clubs.
Inside Out met one farmer who has been plagued by nighthawks,
ever since his land was declared an Ancient Monument Site.
Stealing the nation's heritage
has suffered the nuisance of nighthawks for over 20 years|
John Browning has suffered the nuisance of nighthawks
on his land since 1981. He has had ten on his land in the last two months
and one, the very day before Inside Out arrived!
"The nighthawks, thieves I call them, are looking for
the jackpot," explains John. "They're motivated by money, greed
and have no interest in history whatsoever."
Not only do they cause damage to John’s crops, they are
pilfering our nation’s heritage. Several illegal British finds have ended
up in the USA.
In the past, the police have been extremely pro-active
and John even had his own pre-arranged code word to report the nighthawks.
In all, 30 people have been caught nighthawking on John’s
land, with some turning violent on arrest.
Most got away with small fines, whilst two got short prison
So a pastime for the faint of heart - it isn’t! But if
you still think you could be the next finder of buried treasure - the
legal way - why not contact your local Metal Detectors club?
If not - you can rest easy safe in the knowledge that
buried treasure it may be, but easy money it is not!
With many correct channels to pass through and nighthawks
only one step behind, maybe your trusty trowel could be put to better
use in the garden!