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Was ancient church at Santon Downham, near Thetford, targeted by nighthawks?

PUBLISHED: 13:36 06 March 2017 | UPDATED: 13:38 06 March 2017

Picture: Archant library.

Picture: Archant library.

PA Wire/Press Association Images

Police say people carrying metal detectors were seen leaving woods at the St Helen’s Picnic Site.

The riverside beauty spot is close to the village’s All Saints Church.

But further into the woods lies the site of the former St Helen’s Church.

A police rural crime e-mail says: “Nighthawks were found exiting the trees near the church. They were carrying metal detectors and spades. They were challenged but left the area before officers could arrive. A vehicle index was taken and the investigation will continue as possible illegally obtained finds could have been removed from the historic site.”

The incident is the latest in a series of suspected raids on heritage sites in Norfolk. Extra patriols are being carried out around an undisclosed location in the north of the county after suspicious activity was seen.

Nighthawks dig up coins and other relics to sell on the black market.

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