EAST ANGLIA NEWS AGENCY
PC David Cockle has been sacked after trying to defraud a farmer out of £7,500
PC David Cockle, 50, had a contract allowing him to go metal detecting on the landowner's fields in return for splitting the proceeds of anything he unearthed.
But the Norfolk officer decided not to honour the deal after he dug up ten Merovingian Tremissis coins dating back to the early 7th century.
He did not tell the landowner about the find and instead secretly sold the French coins to a dealer for £15,000 and kept the entire amount.
Cockle admitted stealing ten coins between April 2012 and November 2015 at Ipswich Crown Court last month and is due to be sentenced on March 8.
He was sacked at a misconduct hearing carried out by Norfolk Chief Constable Simon Bailey who said the coin theft “was one of the grossest breaches of trust”.
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”.
Cockle admitted stealing ten coins between April 2012 and November 2015
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.
The hearing at Ipswich Crown Court was told that he 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 field in west Norfolk by another metal detecting fan who also had permission to be on the land.
But unlike Cockle, the other man did the right thing and reported his find to the authorities, enabling it to be declared as treasure trove.
Sources said that the two finds taken together potentially made it the largest ever hoard of the type of coins ever found in the UK.
The officer had an agreement to split anything he found with the landowner
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.
The offence happened when Cockle was living in Wereham near Downham Market, Norfolk. He is now living in Leigh, Lancashire.
Cockle had initially denied stealing, but changed his plea to guilty on the day that his trial was due to start.
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Judge Rupert Overbury adjourned sentencing until March 8 for a pre-sentence report, but told the ex-policeman that he was considering giving him a suspended prison sentence.
The judge added that there was a rigid process to be followed if treasure was found.
But he said that Cockle had sold the coins in batches to the dealer on the basis that he legitimately owned them.
Cockle also denied three charges of converting criminal property. Prosecutors said that they would not proceed with the charges.
After finding the Merovingian Tremissis coins worth £15,000 he sold them in secret
A Norfolk Police spokesman said Cockle who was based at Downham Market police station had been suspended since being charged in May 2016.
The spokesman 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.”