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Officers from Cheshire Constabulary’s Rural Crime Team have arrested six people in connection with the theft of historic artefacts following a series of morning raids in Greater Manchester.
Earlier today (30 June) search warrants were executed at seven addresses located in the Droylsden and Audenshaw areas of Manchester and relate to an investigation of unlawful metal detecting at protected heritage sites across the Midlands and Northern England.
Archaeologists from Historic England’s North West and Midlands regional teams provided online expertise and support for the police officers engaged in the searches.
Six men aged 28, 31, 32, 32, 28 and 31 have been arrested and are helping police with their enquiries.
Artefacts, metal detection equipment and cannabis was seized as part of the investigation. The artefacts will be subject to expert analysis by finds experts from the Portable Antiquities Scheme and archaeologists from Historic England.
Sgt Rob Simpson from the Rural Crime Team, said: “Today’s arrests mark the culmination of an investigation of a group believed to be involved in the theft of historic artefacts from protected heritage sites.
“We recognise that the vast majority of the metal-detecting community comply with the laws and regulations relating to the discovery and recovery of objects from the land. But the small number of people who do remove artefacts unlawfully and damage ancient sites are depriving the community of our valuable history.
“Today’s action sends out a very clear message that the Cheshire Police Rural Crime Team is committed to protecting our rural communities, our heritage sites and its rich source of history.
“I would like to take the opportunity to thank officers from Cheshire Constabulary, including Specials, officers from South Yorkshire Police and colleagues from Historic England’s North West and Midlands regional teams for their support with our investigation.”
Mark Harrison, Head of Heritage Crime Strategy for Historic England said: "Unlawful metal detecting is not a victimless crime. We may never see or fully understand the objects taken or damaged because they have been removed from their original sites with no care or record as to their history or context.
“Historic England will continue to work with Cheshire Constabulary, the Crown Prosecution Service and the metal detecting community to identify the small criminal minority who are intent on causing loss and damage to our shared cultural heritage and to bring them to justice."
Jeremy Ashbee, English Heritage’s Head Properties Curator, said: “As guardians of many of the country’s most important historic sites, we work closely with Historic England and local police services to combat unlawful metal detecting.
“We are pleased at the news that Cheshire Constabulary's investigations relating to unlawful metal detecting at Beeston Castle and Roche Abbey, have progressed in this way.
“Unlawful metal detecting is a serious crime, involving damage to precious archaeological sites, the theft of valuable property and the irretrievable loss of invaluable information.
Unlawful metal detecting robs us of our past – and it affects us all.”
Police and Crime Commissioner David Keane said: “I am incredibly proud of our officers and specials for their commitment to protecting our rural communities and heritage sites. Working jointly with other organisations, such as Historic England, to specifically target rural crime was a key focus of my Rural Policing Strategy and I think today’s outcome sends a clear message that this continues to be a priority in Cheshire.”