Late-night metal detectorists - known as nighthawks - are plundering a south Shropshire cemetery in the hope of unearthing valuable relics from a historic battle, it was claimed today.
A meeting of Ludlow and Clee local joint committee last night called on police to take action against those who target the cemetery in the hope of selling the booty on to unscrupulous dealers for huge profit.
It is believed the late-night metal detectorists are targeting the cemetery and the area around Park Road because there had been a battle at Ludford Bridge in the 1400s.
Councillor Imogen Liddle, vice-chairman of Ludford Parish Council near Ludlow, said: "We have a particular and present problem and that is night-time metal detecting.
"It'll get worse next week because the clocks go back. They have spades, metal detectors and torches. People have been threatened with spades.
"Despite the fact that we've given car registration numbers, it still persists."
Councillor Liddle said residents had told her they had spotted holes that had been dug up in the cemetery.
Local police constable Paul Sparrow urged people to continue monitoring the situation and send in registration numbers.
He told the meeting it was not just a problem in the Ludlow area.
He said that police would deal with people who were breaking the law.
He added: "People who go metal detecting may be engaged in other activity that is unlawful.
"We will deal with them, but if they have gone on land with landowners' permission there may not be anything we can do."
"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.