AN ANTIQUES dealer who conspired with others to conceal a £12 million hoard of ancient treasure buried in Herefordshire has been spared jail.

Coin seller Paul Wells, 60, took items from the Viking treasure trove to fellow dealers to have them valued before they were arranged by others to be sold on the black market.

He was convicted of conspiring to conceal the Leominster Hoard, which was uncovered by metal detectorists on farmland in Herefordshire in June 2015.

Experts said the invaluable Anglo Saxon coins and other jewellery dating back 1,100 years, some from the reign of King Alfred, had the capability to "rewrite history".

Worcester News: A ring from the Leominster HoardA ring from the Leominster Hoard

It included a ninth-century gold ring, a dragon's head bracelet, a silver ingot, a fifth crystal rock pendant and up to 300 coins – most of which is still missing.

A court heard Wells inspected some of the items and kept five coins worth up to £75,000 in the handle of a magnifying glass which he later handed to police.

He was due to learn his fate alongside three co-defendants in November but suffered a cardiac arrest after the verdict and had his sentencing adjourned.

Today (Friday) Wells, of Rumney, Cardiff, was sentenced to 12 months in prison, suspended for two years at Worcester Crown Court.

Worcester News: Jewellery from the Leominster hoardJewellery from the Leominster hoard

He was also ordered to carry out 15 days of rehabilitation activity and 240 hours of unpaid work.

Sentencing, Judge Nicholas Cartwright said "On the findings of the jury, you entered into the agreement to conceal these coins, knowing they were stolen.

"The theft was from those who had an interest in these coins – the Crown, the farmer and the land owner.

"I cannot come to a finding of whether there was financial and personal gain to you."

Wells, wearing a blue checked shirt, blue fleece and khaki jacket, showed no emotion during the hearing.

No order was made for costs due to an upcoming Proceeds of Crime Act hearing to decide how much should be confiscated from Wells and his co-defendants.

His co-conspirators George Powell, 38, Layton Davies, 51, and Simon Wicks, 57, were previously jailed for a total of 23-and-a-half years between them.

A court heard how Powell and Davies unearthed the treasure but tried to cash in on their haul by selling the items on the black market.

By law, the men should have reported the discovery but instead decided to sell the items in small batches to various customers on the black market.

Worcester News: Coins from the Leominster HoardCoins from the Leominster Hoard

All treasure found in the UK belongs to the Crown and a Treasure Valuation Committee decides how it should be shared among the finder and the landowner or tenant.

The court heard how Powell and Davies approached the National Museum of Wales – after a council worker heard rumours of the find and tracked one of the men down.

The pair signed over three items to the museum, but claimed they found one coin each at different locations – meaning they would not have been subject to the Treasure Act.

If they had declared the treasure they would have been in line to pocket £500,000 each. The hoard was valued at £3 million but experts later said it could be worth £12 million.

Jurors also heard how Powell had only handed over three coins he found to the owner of the land and those were "not particularly valuable."

Only 31 of the coins – worth between £10,000 and £50,000 – and pieces of jewellery have ever been recovered,with the majority of the hoard still missing.

But mobile phone photographs found on Davies' phone by police showed the trove all together as one in a freshly dug hole.

Powell, Davies, Wicks and Wells were previously convicted of conspiring to conceal the treasure.

Powell, Davies and Wicks were also found guilty of conspiring to convert the treasure into cash.

Powell, a warehouse worker, from Newport, Wales, was previously jailed for six years for theft and four years for conspiracy to conceal and convert, totalling 10 years.

Davies, of Pontypridd, Wales, a school caretaker, was caged for eight-and-a-half years after receiving five-and-a-half years for theft and three years for concealing the treasure.

Wicks, of Hailsham, East Sussex, received five years imprisonment for his charges which also included breaching conditional discharges for previous convictions.