TWO metal detectorists who stole a £3 million hoard of coins which dated back 1,100 years have been jailed.

George Powell, 38, and Layton Davies, 51, failed to declare an "invaluable" collection of buried treasure they found near Leominster in 2015.

The items, many of which were Anglo Saxon but are typical of a Viking burial hoard, were dug up on Herefordshire farmland on June 2, 2015.

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Powell, who was described as having the "leading" role, was jailed for 10 years while Davies, a former caretaker, received eight and a half years.

Both were also convicted alongside two other men, 60-year-old Paul Wells and Simon Wicks, 57, with conspiring to conceal the find.

Sentencing on Friday, Judge Nicholas Cartwright said the men had "cheated" not only the landowner, but also the public of "exceptionally rare and significant" coins.

He said: "You cheated the farmer, his mother, the land-owner and also the public when you committed theft of these items.

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"That is because the treasure belongs to the nation.

"The benefit to the nation is these items can be seen and admired by others."

The judge said: "Exhibitions at museums encourage visits to those museums, which supports those museums financially and keeps them sustainable.

"Stealing the items as you did denies the public the opportunity of seeing those items in the way they should be displayed.

"When treasure is found it belongs, from the moment of finding, to the nation."

Judge Cartwright told Powell and Davies that on finding the treasure, the "responsible thing" would have been to stop digging and notify the authorities.

"The two of you, of course, acted very differently indeed," he added.

"Having realised immediately this was a very significant and valuable find, even if you didn't have the detailed expertise to know exactly what each item of jewellery and these coins represented, you acted in a way that was greedy and selfish.

"You clumsily dug out everything you could find, put the soil back and left without speaking to the farmer, the farmer's mother or anybody else."

The judge added: "All four defendants played their respective parts.

"You, Simon Wicks, were part of a conspiracy to conceal the stolen treasure and to sell it.

"Paul Wells, who will be sentenced a on future occasion, was part of a conspiracy to conceal part of the stolen treasure."

He said: "The irony in this case is if you, George Powell, and you, Layton Davies, had obtained the permissions and agreements which responsible metal detectorists are advised to obtain.

"If you had gone on to act within the law after you found this treasure, you could have expected to have either a half share, or at very worst a third share of over £3 million to share between the two of you.

"You could not have done worse than £500,000 each.

"But you wanted more."