TWO metal detector users have admitted stealing coins and other artefacts from a protected Roman site in Baylham, near Needham Market.

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Scott Mitchell and Allan Oakley have had their equipment confiscated following the theft of several items belonging to the English Heritage site.

They were arrested in March, a month after three other men were detained following an alleged assault with a metal pole on another man at the site at Baylham Rare Breeds Farm. There is no suggestion Oakley and Mitchell were involved in the earlier alleged incident, which also involved metal detector users.

Oakley, 48, of Halton Road, Grays, and Mitchell, 44, of Phoenix Place, Dartford, admitted theft and using a metal detector in a protected place without consent, when they appeared before Bury St Edmunds magistrates.

The pair were at Baylham between 1.30am and 2.20am on March 29.

Police, who had been keeping watch over the site after the previous incident, saw an area of ground had been disturbed. They also noticed an unattended vehicle in a layby just before the Coddenham exit of the A14.

Oakley and Mitchell were subsequently arrested and items were found in the pockets of their camouflage jackets.

Roman coins, a buckle fitting, terracotta lamps, a lead button and copper and metal work were discovered during the inquiry.

In addition to the forfeiture of their metal detecting equipment, Oakley and Mitchell were given conditional discharges for 24 months, and ordered to pay £85 prosecution costs.

On February 18 three men were arrested following an alleged fight at the same location. Emergency services were called at around 3.15am after a man sustained head injuries.

It was believed that a number of men had been scouring the Roman site surrounding the farm looking for unearthed treasure and had been involved in a confrontation.

A 38-year-old man, from the Grays area of Essex, was believed to have been struck with a “metal pole” and was taken to West Suffolk Hospital for treatment. As a result of the incident 41-year-old from Grays, and 43-year-old man from Grays, were subsequently cautioned by police for theft of coins.

Shortly afterwards Richard Storer, the owner of Baylham Rare Breeds Farm said it was regularly plagued by unauthorised people with metal detectors in search of lucrative artefacts.

Nighthawking is illegal metal detecting, which is carried out overnight to avoid arrest, on sites of archaeological interest.

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