THE mystery surrounding claims that a £100m Leonardo da Vinci painting is actually a portrait of a Bolton shop girl is bemusing and amusing residents of Bromley Cross.

Experts in the art world have been baffled by an extraordinary claim made by Bromley Cross master forger Shaun Greenhalgh that he drew La Bella Principessa, a chalk and ink picture which is believed to be a lost 15th century Leonardo da Vinci, in 1978.

Not only that, but the woman in the portrait is not the 13-year-old daughter of Ludovico Sforza, the Duke of Milan, but Sally, one of his colleagues during his time working at the Co-op supermarket in Bromley Cross.

The revelations published in his recently-released memoirs, A Forger's Tale have been the talk of the town in Bromley Cross.

At the Co-operative, on Darwen Road, where the checkout girl supposedly worked, customers have been searching for the mysterious Sally but to no avail.

A member of staff, who wished not to be named, said they had worked at the store for 20 years and did not recognise the woman in the painting.

"The customers have also been coming in and talking about it but no one knows her," they added.

Shopper Catherine Lodge, 63, was equally bemused.

She said: "The picture looks medieval, she's a very attractive lady whoever she is. I haven't lived here that long but shop here and I've never heard of a Sally.

"All I can tell you is she's definitely not me!"

Residents living near the store are also none the wiser, including 65-year-old David Philips who was the local milkman for nearly 20 years who said the name and profile did not "ring any bells".

Joyce Finney, aged 84, is a former employee of the store and one-time neighbour to the Greenhalgh family and yet even she was at a loss.

She said: "I worked at the Co-op when it first opened and I don't remember any Sally. I worked at the Co-op a long time so I must have known her but you can't really tell who it is.

"He could have painted it, I think he did because who knows what he's painted. It's a lovely picture and from what I've seen of his work the paintings are absolutely gorgeous and you can never tell if they are copies."

According to Mr Greenhalgh's memoirs, written while he was in prison, Sally worked on the checkout and "was a bossy little bugger and very self-important".

He fooled the world with his fake masterpieces by emulating the work of some of history’s most revered artists and sculptors from the home of his elderly parents in Bromley Cross, while they fronted the sales operation.

It came to an end in 2006 when he was arrested and sentenced to four years and eight months at Bolton Crown Court.