RURAL crime teams carried out searches at an historic 12th century Dorset church following reports of nighthawking.

The Dorset Police Rural Crime Team encountered four people at the Knowlton Church heritage site in East Dorset on Thursday, August 18.

Nighthawking is the theft of archaeological artifacts from protected archaeological sites and areas under the cover of darkness.

A Rural Crime Team spokesperson said: “Officers carrying out searches at a heritage site in East Dorset tonight following reports of nighthawking in the area."

The spokesperson added: "Four persons searched under the Misuse of Drugs Act further to evidence of drug use.”

This comes two months after the grounds were damaged and artefacts potentially stolen from Knowlton Church by metal detectorists.