Sunday 20 March 2011

Metal Detecting Gang Violence Reported

Something from my old stamping grounds. Farmer Richard Storer of Baylham Rare Breeds Farm, Baylham (near Needham Market), Suffolk has recently been having some problems with metal detector using collectors of archaeological finds coming onto his land at night without his prior knowledge or permission to steal collectable finds from the rich archaeological record on his property. “It has been happening a lot lately and is particularly bad this year" he said. Readers will register that that's the year after a government-sponsored report claimed that the problem with illegal metal detecting was diminishing "due to the PAS". Anyway he'd got a field that had been ploughed and sowed a fortnight previously when two of these metal detector-toting thieves arrived early in the morning on 19th February. The men were discovered in action and told to leave the premises (oddly, no mention is made of the police being called). Then at three in the morning, the farmer's daughter Katrina was confronted by an injured man as she went to check on the farm’s lambing sheep.
“It was a very scary experience for her,” said Mr Storer. “As the man came into the light Katrina could see that his face was covered in blood and also that he was using his mobile phone to call an ambulance. He didn’t know where he was and had followed the light to find help.” Mr Storer said Katrina alerted her brother Neil, who was sleeping in the farmhouse, and they helped the man arrange for an ambulance to come out. The police were also called.

A local newspaper reports (Jonathan Barnes Baylham: Police probe ‘gang fight’ east Angliuan Daily Times, February 23, 2011):
It is believed that a number of men had been scouring the Roman site surrounding the farm looking for unearthed treasure and had been involved in a confrontation. The 38-year-old man, from the Grays area of Essex, was believed to have been struck with a “metal pole” and was taken to West Suffolk Hospital for treatment. Police said they arrested three men on suspicion of assault causing grevious (sic) bodily harm – the 38-year-old man, a 41-year-old man from Grays and a 43-year-old man of no fixed abode. Three men were arrested, the 41-year-old man was bailed to return to Ipswich Police Station on April 1 while the other two will face no further action.
There is a scheduled Roman site at Baylam, the Storers' farm is on part of the Roman site of Combretovium which included two Roman forts and a large civil settlement which I wrote about many years ago (with a nice cropmark plan published, ideal aid for treasure hunters). But it can't have been here that the men were caught since they "face no further action". Basically I guess the lesson from this is that it might not be a good idea to quarrel with nocturnal artefact hunters from rough areas of Essex and homeless guys carrying metal poles.

The distance from Grays to Baylam is 90 kilometres up the A13 and A12. Did this metal detectorist seriously not know where he was? So much for metal detectorists' site-research then.

Vignette: avoid head injuries, beware of metal detectorists going equipped with metal poles and other weapons.

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