A couple aged in their 80s today pleaded guilty to defrauding galleries and antique dealers by passing off fake works of art.

George Greenhalgh, aged 84, and Olive Greenhalgh, aged 83, of Bolton, conspired to defraud art institutions between June 1999 and March last year, Bolton Crown Court heard.

They also admitted conspiracy to conceal and transfer £410,392, the proceeds of the sale of the Amarna Princess statuette to Bolton Council.

Their son, Shaun, aged 47, pleaded guilty to the same offences at an earlier hearing.

All three, who live at The Crescent, Bromley Cross, Bolton, will be sentenced on a date to be fixed between November 16 and 23.

They were were given unconditional bail.

The Amarna Princess, an Egyptian statue, believed to be about 3,300 years old, was bought by Bolton Council for £440,000 in September 2003.

However, experts determined the 20-inch sculpture was a fake last year.

It was said to represent one of the daughters of Pharaoh Akhenaten and Queen Nefertiti, the mother of King Tutankhamun.

Officers from the Metropolitan Police's Art and Antiques Unit removed the artefact last March after concerns were raised about a Syrian sculpture which had arrived at the British Museum in London.

The anonymous vendor claimed their great grandfather had bought the statue at the auction of the Devon property of the Earl of Egremont in 1892 and had taken it to his Bolton home.

The private collector expressed a wish for the Amarna Princess to return to the town.

Only two similar pieces are believed to exist - one is in the Louvre in Paris and the other in a museum in Philadelphia.

The council paid for the "bargain" by securing a grant of £360,000 from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, as well as £75,000 from the National Art Collections Fund and £2,500 from the Friends of Bolton Museum and Art Gallery.

The ancient relic, said to date back to 1350 BC, went on display in the town's museum after first being featured in an exhibition at the Hayward Gallery in London, which was opened by the Queen.

George Greenhalgh Jnr, 52, also of The Crescent, Bromley Cross, is accused of acquiring criminal property, although the Crown Prosecution said his case was not part of the antique conspiracy.

He denies the offence and will face trial next February.

Judge Morris made no reference to sentencing options for George Greenhalgh Snr, who attended court in a wheelchair, and his wife, but said he wanted the matter dealt with quickly, considering their ages.