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David Hutchings, known as ‘Coldfeet’ to fellow members of the Coventry Moles metal detecting club, used legitimate digs across the Midlands to ‘discover’ fake items before passing them off as genuine antiquities.

Scotland Yard’s Art and Antiques Unit raided his home in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, after an Essex dealer raised concerns about a set of coins Hutchings was trying to sell.

Warwick Crown Court was told that Hutchings had tried to sell the Essex dealer £2000 worth of coins purported to date from the 1st to the 8th centuries. Other dealers had bought similar coins.

During the searches the Art and Antiques Unit discovered a number of genuine Anglo-Saxon coins that were used to make the fakes.

Experts from the British Museum and the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, who assessed the replica coins concluded that all had either been manufactured by casting in a mould or struck using forged dies.