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Diver to be sentenced for £46,000 cannon fraud

Published 04/09/2015

Southampton Crown Court, where Vincent Woolsgrove pleaded guilty to fraud following an investigation by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency
Southampton Crown Court, where Vincent Woolsgrove pleaded guilty to fraud following an investigation by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency

A commercial diver is to be sentenced for a £46,000 fraud after he falsely stated he had found three cannons in international waters to avoid them being claimed by the Crown.

Vincent Woolsgrove, of Ramsgate, Kent, pleaded guilty at a previous hearing to a single count of fraud at Southampton Crown Court following a two-year investigation by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA).

The 48-year-old had reported finding five cannons during the summer of 2007, two from the wreck of the warship London and three in international waters off the coast of Kent.

The cannons recovered from the warship London were both very rare bronze Peter Gill and commonwealth cannons.

The London was a second rate warship built in Chatham dockyard in 1654 and became part of Charles II "restoration navy".

In 1665 the London blew up accidentally off Southend when a powder magazine exploded.

The three that he had reported finding off North Foreland were 24lb bronze cannons originally from the City of Amsterdam.

The cannons were part of a battery of 36 cannons produced in Amsterdam to protect the city in the early part of the 16th century, and were assigned to Dutch ships during the first Anglo-Dutch war.

Woolsgrove was subsequently awarded the title of three Dutch cannons, as the MCA were unable to prove at that time that the cannons were property of the Crown and he sold them to a US collector for more than £50,000.

A further investigation by the MCA, Kent & Essex Police and Historic England (formerly English Heritage) found that the three Dutch cannons had been issued to Dutch vessels, Groote Liefde and St. Mattheus to attack the English fleet during the first Anglo-Dutch War in 1653.

The vessels were then captured by the English and the cannons taken as prizes.

These cannons were subsequently placed on board the warship London until its fateful day in 1665 when it blew up with the loss of more than 200 onboard.

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