Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Artefact Collector Arrested in St Albans

St Albans, town full of history
Herts police force press release:
Police attended an address in Windmill Avenue, St Albans, at approximately 8am this morning (Wednesday, September 17) to execute a search warrant in connection with the theft of heritage artefacts [...] A 48-year old man from St Albans has been arrested on suspicion of theft from heritage and protected sites and is currently in police custody for questioning.
Reportedly, one of the sites he's been accused of hoiking artefacts from is a protected prisoner of war camp in Batford, Harpenden (BBC, 'St Albans man arrested over war artefacts theft', 17 September 2014). Officers believe the man had travelled to sites all over Britain and Europe (here too) in the search for memorabilia. We've already heard on this blog about British artefact hunters who think what's "OK" (sic) to do in Bonkers Britain (because the PAS tells them so) is equally "OK" to do on the continent. It most certainly is not.

Cue the traditional expressions of dismay and contempt from artefact hunters and collectors on the metal detecting forums... Tekkies don their "We 'int nighthawks" teeshirts and bobble hats. The whingeing complaints that "the good wot us metal detectorists do" will not be taken into account. Relief that another official somewhere de rigeur has obligingly stressed (for some reason) that like road users "most metal detectorists abide by the law...".

UPDATE 17th Sept 2014
Excited local blog here.

and here's a link to one of the collectables demonstrating what it could have done in a collector's garage in an otherwise quiet suburban residential district. Google Earth shows the garage is right next to a footpath.

It strikes me that the Code of Responsible Metal Detecting in England and Wales created by the CBA and PAS seriously overestimates metal detectorists' intelligence. It merely says if they find unexploded items like this to report them. What it omits to say is "and do not under any circumstances take them home and put them in your garage next to your family's home and a public footpath, it's irresponsible". I guess the authors did not know to what lengths of irresponsibility the collecting urge can drive some people of weak will and intellect.

Mind you, looking at the photos, it seems that the metal detected component of this guy's collection is not particularly dominant. There's musket balls on the floor, a few earth-corroded shells at the back, but the uniforms, flags, helmets and guns have never been in the ground. There's a German M18 helmet there and a Mauser 98k which will not have been UK-found and will have been bought from a dealer. That is not in itself necessarily illegal, so I am wondering how much of his collection is being forfeited and whether for example historical firearms seized will be destroyed or going to a museum (or whether he'll be allowed them back after getting any missing gun licences and storage facilities).  Is the blast we see in the video actually explosive material contained in the collected items, or a controlled detonation of something 'just in case'? I say this because I know people over here who collect this stuff and remove the charge themselves (yes, at least one metal detectorist a year accidentally kills himself like that in Poland). they cannot get it done by the sappers, as their method is just to blow it up.


David Gill said...

Apparently he had been collecting munitions.

David Gill said...

Apparently he had been collecting munitions.

Paul Barford said...

perhaps a supporter of ISIS. "Theft from heritage and protected sites" sounds like illegal metal detecting, the explosives though are probably more newsworthy. We will see what emerges.

Anonymous said...

Looks like it's from European battle sites

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