As we were already in the area we called the landowner, he wasn’t best pleased to hear that a nighthawker (thief) was on his land for the umpteenth time.
I said I’d call him if we saw the thief in the field.
On arrival, we couldn’t see the thief in the OSR field and suspected he may be in the field that was out-of-sight of the roadside.
As we neared the out-of-site field, the landowner arrived in his 4x4 and we jumped in.
Seconds later, the thief appeared through the opening and we stopped him.
He had his detector and spade with him, of which had fresh soil on it.
He was challenged with the fact that he was of committing an offence under the Heritage Crime Act. He replied, “You’re kidding?” and then started shaking his head and mumbling something.
Firstly, he said that he hadn’t had any signals (as though this was ok and that he wasn’t going equipped to steal). Remember his spade had fresh soil on it so he must have had at least one signal.
Besides, the OSR field he crossed diagonally was full of green waste so it would be impossible not to get a signal.
Secondly, he then claimed to have “knocked on the door of a cottage nearby, but didn’t get an answer”. Again, he thought this was justification to still trespass and go equipped to steal.
Thirdly, he then said that he didn’t cross the field and travelled around the sides of it, yet he was seen walking across it and swinging the detector, and he admitted “he didn’t get any signals”.
Fourthly, he claimed that he thought there was a footpath alongside the fields.
He was asked to point out a footpath sign that he’d seen that would to lead him to this conclusion.
Of course, there wasn’t one.
He was advised that he should have consulted an up-to-date OS map to check access to any land.
He said he’d been detecting for well over 20 years and never trespassed before.
There was a distinct smell of bull excrement in the air at this point.
I asked him how he would react to people arriving several times to his front or rear garden and start digging it up without permission to be there? He tried the usual “chaff” replies to try and change the nature of the question. He didn’t succeed as I asked him again and again until he had to admit that he wouldn’t like it if that happened to him.
The police were called but they said that there was no-one available for over an hour!
However, we had an off-duty police officer on-call and arrived with a warrant card.
The nighthawker was taken to one side and questioned.
Details were taken and he was then allowed to leave.
The officer then visited the local police station to report the incident.
The field that the thief had crossed has been nighthawked for a long time and continues to be so as well as other areas on this farm.
Additionally, the field he came out of has also been nighthawked for several years.
This explains why we are only recovering small Roman coins and no large artefacts such as brooches etc. Obviously, his machine wasn’t capable of recovering small Roman coins but good enough to steal brooches and other large metallic artefacts.
There’s a lot of Roman pottery strewn over the field surface, but obviously, this is of no value whatsoever to the thief so it has been left behind.
This field is very large in size so it must have been nighthawked for well over 20 years!
That's 20 years' worth of heritage gone forever.
Compared to the farms we’ve covered that haven’t been nighthawked, the coin-to-brooch ratio evaluates to several brooches/artefacts that are missing/stolen from this site.
So, it just goes to show, a nighthawked site will only produce small items that have been missed by inferior machines.
We’ll keep you posted on the progress and results of this crime and the progress of the Infra-Red CCTV camera system that the landowner is looking to install shortly.
This will also spot any illegal hare-coursers too!