Historic England thefts: Four held over artefacts taken from protected sites

Artefacts seized by police Image copyright Cheshire Police
Image caption A number of coins were seized during the raids

Four men have been arrested over the theft of artefacts from protected heritage sites, police have said.

The men, aged 28, 31, 31 and 32, were arrested by Cheshire Police in raids in Droylsden and Audenshaw, Greater Manchester earlier.

A spokesman said the force, supported by Historic England, was investigating "unlawful metal detecting" in Cheshire and South Yorkshire.

Artefacts, including some coins, were found during raids on seven addresses.

Metal detection equipment and cannabis were also seized.

Image copyright Cheshire Police
Image caption Police carried out raids on seven properties in Greater Manchester as part of the investigation

Sgt Rob Simpson said while "the vast majority of the metal-detecting community comply with the laws... a small number of people do remove artefacts unlawfully and damage ancient sites".

The force spokesman said the confiscated artefacts would now be subjected to "expert analysis by finds experts from the Portable Antiquities Scheme and archaeologists from Historic England".

The force would not confirm the exact locations of the heritage sites targeted or further detail of the finds seized.

Historic England's Mark Harrison said unlawful metal detecting was "not a victimless crime".

"We may never see or fully understand the objects taken or damaged because they have been removed from their original sites with no care or record as to their history or context."

The raids follow a similar operation in January, which saw two men held over "nighthawking" at Cheshire's Beeston Castle.

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