British policeman sacked after reneging on deal to share proceeds of buried coins

By Patrick Sawer at Daily Telegraph

The former policeman failed to tell the landowner about his find of 10 French coins and instead sold them to a dealer and kept the entire amount. Photo / 123RF
The former policeman failed to tell the landowner about his find of 10 French coins and instead sold them to a dealer and kept the entire amount. Photo / 123RF

A policeman who cheated a farmer out of a share of historic gold coins worth £15,000 ($26,000) found on his land has been sacked.

PC David Cockle, 50, had a struck deal with the farmer allowing him to go metal detecting on his fields in return for splitting the proceeds of anything he discovered.

But the Norfolk officer reneged on the arrangement after he unearthed up to 10 extremely rare Merovingian Tremissis coins dating back to the early 7th century.

Cockle failed to tell the landowner about the find and instead sold the French coins to a dealer for £15,000 and kept the entire amount.

Cockle admitted stealing 10 coins between April 2012 and November 2015 at Ipswich Crown Court last month and is due to be sentenced on March 8.

On Monday the Pc was sacked at a misconduct hearing for what Norfolk Chief Constable Simon Bailey described as "one of the grossest breaches of trust"in stealing the coins.

Mr Bailey said it was clear Cockle was allowed to use the land to search for treasure "because he was a police officer and the farmer liked the idea of a police officer on his land".

The chief constable added that Cockle had let the force down by keeping the coins and had "most importantly let the farmer down and the wider public".

The coins found by Cockle would have been similar to these 7th Century ones minted in Orleans and found in the West Midlands, UK. Photo / finds.org.uk
The coins found by Cockle would have been similar to these 7th Century ones minted in Orleans and found in the West Midlands, UK. Photo / finds.org.uk

The hearing was told the breaches amounted to gross misconduct with the only appropriate outcome being immediate dismissal.

Cockle who did not attend the hearing, expressed his remorse and apologised in a written statement presented by the Police Federation.

Ipswich Crown Court was also told that the policeman had also failed to report his find to the Norfolk coroner who would have considered if it was treasure trove.

The coins which he sold in three batches over 14 months are believed to have been part of a larger hoard.

Similar gold coins were found in the same West Norfolk field by another metal detecting enthusiast who also had permission to be on the land.

But unlike Cockle, the other man reported his find to the authorities, enabling it to be declared as treasure trove.

Experts said that the two finds taken together potentially made it the largest ever hoard of the type of coins ever found in the UK.

Merovingian Tremissis coins were made in Gaul which is now France and other low countries of Europe and are said to be very rare in the UK with only around 100 of them found in modern times.

Cockle, who at the time of the offence lived in Wareham, near Downham Market, Norfolk, and has since moved to Leigh, in Lancashire, had initially denied stealing, but changed his plea to guilty on the day that his trial was due to start.

Judge Rupert Overbury adjourned sentencing until March 8 for a pre-sentence report, but told the officer that he was considering giving him a suspended prison sentence.

Cockle also denied three charges of converting criminal property. Prosecutors said that they would not proceed with the charges.

A Norfolk Police spokeswoman said Cockle, who was based at Downham Market police station, had been suspended since being charged in May 2016.

The spokeswoman said he was "in breach of a contract he had signed with the landowner"to share the proceeds of any find.

She added: "The investigation was launched after the Norfolk and Suffolk Anti-Corruption Unit received information from a member of the public and Cockle was arrested in November 2015."

- Daily Telegraph UK

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