Police appeal over 'nighthawking' heritage crime incident at Roman villa site in Scarborough

North Yorkshire Police have confirmed they are investigating a 'nighthawking' incident at the site of a Roman villa in Scarborough.

The dig at Eastfield near Scarborough (photo: MAP Archaeology)

The illegal treaspassers - who attempt to access protected monuments in order to remove artifacts, often using metal detectors - breached security at the Keepmoat housing development in Eastfield overnight between Wednesday and Thursday, just hours after Historic England has made the significant archaelogical finds public.

In early 2020 a 'unique' villa complex from the Roman period was found on farmland earmarked for new homes, and historians have been stunned by the unusual features of the building's foundations, which suggest it was owned and used by those of high social status. The discovery was not announced until this week following completion of initial excavations at the site.

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North Yorkshire Police have launched an investigation into the incident and have encouraged members of the public to sign up to the Heritage Watch scheme, which helps to monitor historic monuments that are often located in remote areas.

Site workers are currently conducting an inventory at Eastfield to ascertain whether any items were taken, and the trespassers caused damage to the fencing.

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to contact North Yorkshire Police on 101, quoting reference 12210098319.

A spokesperson for North Yorkshire Police said: “Our area’s rich heritage - dating back to when the Roman Empire was governed from York and even earlier - is part of the reason why this is such a wonderful place to live and visit.

“Sadly, heritage crime can cause huge damage to assets of great historical interest. Indeed, the cost to communities of heritage crime is often immeasurable, resulting in the loss of artifacts to future generations. We need to work together to protect these sites, so that others can continue to enjoy them for many years to come.”

Heritage Watch is a scheme which aims to fight crime and anti-social behaviour at heritage sites by improving communication between people who take a keen interest in heritage, those who live near such sites, and the police. These people are likely to frequent areas of historical interest more often, and be able to notice anything suspicious or out of the ordinary in these areas.

Visit www.northyorkshire.police.uk/heritagewatch.