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Two face jail for stealing snowdrops from Walsingham

PUBLISHED: 16:21 25 March 2019 | UPDATED: 16:34 25 March 2019

Snowdrops in full bloom at Walsingham Picture: Ian Burt

Snowdrops in full bloom at Walsingham Picture: Ian Burt

Archant 2018

Two men face prison after stealing thousands of snowdrops from a Norfolk estate.

Peter Gibbs, 30 and Stefan Simpson, also 30, were among a gang which stole an estimated 13,000 snowdrop bulbs, worth around £1,500, from the Walsingham Estate, near Fakenham.

King’s Lynn magistrates heard Gibbs and Simpson were in a car with Louis Stoker, 22, which police pulled over on the A148 at around 2am on Wednesday, March 13.

Jane Walker, prosecuting, said when officers searched the vehicle, they found bin bags filled with bulbs.

All three were arrested on suspicion of theft. In interview Gibbs of Colville Road, Newton-in-the-Isle, Cambs, told police: “I’ll admit I was picking flowers but I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong.”

Simpson of Lilac Close, Wisbech, said he had been doing fencing work when a traveller asked him if he wanted to earn extra money picking flowers for £10 a bag.

He approached the others, telling them they could earn £5 a bag, Ms Walker said.

After climbing over a wall during the early hours to pick the bulbs by the light of their mobile phone torches, they placed around 20 bags in an estate car driven by another man, the court was told.

They then drove off the remainder of the bags but were stopped by police.

Gibbs and Simpson admitted theft and damage to the ground where the flowers were being grown. Stoker of Walton Road, East Winch, had been dealt with earlier by way of a formal caution, the court was told.

Chair of the bench Louise Barber told Gibbs and Simpson: “This is so serious we’re going to commit it to crown court for sentence. Our powers are not sufficient enough.”

A pre-sentence report covering all options will now be produced. Both were bailed until a date to be set on condition they do not enter Walsingham or the Walsingham Estate, or contact each other.

After today’s hearing John Downing, land agent at Walsingham, said bulb theft was “a significant problem” for the estate.

“We’re very grateful to the police and hopefully this will deter people from thinking they can just come into the countryside and help themselves,” he said.

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