A new documentary reveals how a Sussex treasure hunter reportedly found and then lost a £40 million bounty of one of history’s most infamous pirates.

The incredible story of Richard Knight’s journey across the globe to find Captain Kidd’s bounty is told in The Hunt for Pirate Treasure.

The documentary on digital channel Yesterday explains how the Lancing man gave up his job as an actor after becoming convinced of the whereabouts of the 17th century pirate’s treasure.

While other hunters were fixated on the Caribbean, Mr Knight’s research led him to think that the treasure was instead somewhere in the South China Sea.

After studying maps and charts drawn by the pirate, he became convinced that the bounty was buried on the small Vietnamese island of Hon Tre Lon.

When he later learned that the island’s name translated as Grand Pirate’s Island in Vietnamese, he set off, trawling the bars of Australia and Hong Kong in search of companions.

Canny Captain Kidd

Author Glenys Roberts, who helped Mr Knight write his memoirs and contributed to the documentary, said: “Knight seems to have had no trouble finding backers, but no one actually wanted to brave the hazards and come with him.

“By 1981 he decided to chance it on his own, reasoning that’s what Kidd would have done. The canny Kidd would not have shared an invaluable secret with anyone.”

Sweltering sun He hired a small fishing boat and navigated by the stars until he hit land.

At first light he tied up the vessel and made his way across the island with just a metal detector, crowbar and spade along with basic provisions and dollar bills to bribe any natives.

He started to dig and after hours in the sweltering sun, he unearthed three packed treasure chests.

Inside were gold and silver coins, both Oriental and European, and invaluable jade and porcelain figurines.

Mr Knight stuffed as much of the treasure into sacks as possible before heading for another suspected burial site.

But fearing his luck may run out, he scampered back to his fishing ship with the intention of returning for the rest at a later date.

He buried the treasure he had managed to grab in case he was targeted by thieves but before he could recover it he was stopped by Communist guards, accused of being a spy and jailed.

Mr Knight served 14 months in prison before returning to Sussex but died before he could return for his loot, taking the location of the buried treasure to his grave.

To watch the documentary visit uktv.co.uk/yesterday.

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