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Shropshire coins find sparked treasure hunt row

Shrewsbury | News | Published:

A row between former metal detecting club members broke out at a treasure inquest over the number of Iron Age coins each man had found.

At one point coroner John Ellery, presiding over the hearing at Shirehall in Shrewsbury, had to tell those involved to "keep the temperature down". He also threatened to adjourn the inquest to a later date if the hearing "got out of hand".

Derek Lloyd told the hearing he found three gold coins while detecting with fellow members of the Four Quarters Metal Detecting Club from Dudley in a field in the Claverley area owned by Malcolm Powell.

But John Sibley, one of the club members, claimed he found the third coin that Mr Lloyd said he had found. Mr Lloyd is no longer a member of the club.

The inquest was held yesterday into seven Iron Age coins all dating between AD 20 to 50. Six of them were found on March 1 this year while the seventh coin was found on March 5. Despite them being found on different days the coins are part of the same hoard.

The dispute arose over the six coins that were found on March 1.

Mr Lloyd, from Kidderminster, said he found three of the coins, while father and son John and Martin Sibley, and Shaun Painter found one coin each. Mr Painter found the seventh coin four days later.

Mr Lloyd's claim was backed up by Mr Sibley's son in a letter stating that he had found three coins.

But John Sibley, 67, from Dudley, argued that he and Mr Lloyd had actually found two coins each.

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During the hearing Mr Lloyd remained defiant that he found three coins, dubbing Mr Sibley's story as "utter rubbish".

He said: "I found three coins. I called the others over as I was in the middle of the field; the other men were on the outskirts of the field.

"I got a signal and found one which started off the excitement, then I found another one. I said I've got gold here but they thought I was fooling about. I told them I was serious and then Mr Sibley (Snr) started digging in my circuit, right around my area and in the meantime I'd found the third one."

Mr Sibley denied this, he said: "He (Mr Lloyd) got a signal and dug the hole but he could not find it, he said he couldn't find it. I found it and he said 'it's mine, it's mine'.He can't dispute it, I found the third coin."

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In a bid to settle the disagreement Mr Ellery asked for Mr Lloyd to swear on the Bible and answer questions on oath.

Mr Lloyd said: "I dug the hole, I admit scratting around to find it and he may have heard me say I can't find it but I did. It was my hand that found it.

"I don't care what he says, I swear on the Holy Bible I found it.

"If he's challenging that, that I didn't dig it, then why have I declared the third coin, why have I got it. Surely possession is nine tenths of the law?"

Mr Sibley was also asked to swear on the Bible.

When insisting he was the one who had got the coin out of the ground, Mr Sibley said: "He said 'it's mine' so I gave it him."

When Mr Ellery asked why Mr Sibley had not said this until the hearing, Mr Sibley said: "He's been so nasty about the whole procedure that I'm getting my own back."

Concluding the hearing, Mr Ellery accepted Mr Lloyd's evidence and declared the coins were a hoard of treasure

He said: "I accept Mr Lloyd's evidence because it was consistent throughout and supported by Martin Sibley's letter, and this was only brought to my attention this morning. On the balance of probabilities Mr Lloyd found the three coins and the others found one each. Shaun Painter also found the seventh coin on March 5."

Mr Ellery said he would notify the British Museum that he declared the coins a hoard of treasure.

Following the inquest John Sibley said he was "totally disgusted" at the outcome but happy that he found one coin and would be getting his share for that.

Mr Lloyd, 78, said: "I'm very happy in one sense but what should have been a very happy event didn't end up being one. I am still excited about the hoard but I couldn't believe what was said at the hearing today."

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