MACABRE treasure hunters have been using metal detectors to search for souvenirs from the scene of a horrific jet crash more than 50 years ago.

An RAF Sabre fighter from Linton-on-Ouse near York plunged into Hood Hill, near Sutton Bank on the North York Moors, in September 1954 and was blown to pieces in the high-speed imapct.

The pilot, 23-year-old Flying Officer Colin "Snatch" Grabham, born in Dover, was killed instantly and the crater left by the smash is still visible to this day.

But souvenir scavengers, thought to be military aircraft enthusiasts, have been search for highly-collectable fragments of the jet and left signs of digging.

And officials have condemned the practice and called for its immediate end.

"It is highly likely the remains of Flying Officer Grabham are still on the site and therefore the site should be treated with the respect it deserves," said a Ministry of Defence spokesman.

"In addition, there is a chance that ordnance may remain at the site and it can become unstable when exposed to the air, leading to death or serious injury."

He also warned that it was an offence to tamper with, damage, move or unearth any remains under the Protection of Military Remains Act.

The site is within the National Park and the authority’s senior archaeological conservation officer, Graham Lee, said digging near the crash crater was also restricted by law due to its importance as the site of a medieval fortification.

"Unfortunately there are individuals who are sufficiently fanatical about their hobby to show a complete disregard to the law," he said.

He added: "Since the crash, there have always been some bits of metal at the site, but there is nothing big and the majority of the remains were collected immediately after the incident.

"It is very hard ground – it is a unique geological landscape – so it is very unlikely anything of significance would be buried in the ground."

The situation is being monitored by the landowners, the Forestry Commission, which could take action to prevent further digging.