A COMPULSIVE forger duped the art world into buying a string of realistic fake masterpieces because he feared he would never be recognised as an artist in his own right.

Shaun Greenhalgh will be seen for the first time explaining why he decided to con the art world in a TV documentary to be screened on Thursday.

Channel 4's Cutting Edge programme, called The Artful Codgers, tells the story of the Greenhalgh family from Bromley Cross, who tricked Bolton Museum into spending £440,000 on a fake ancient Egyptian statue in 2003.

Justine Bower, from Channel 4, said: "Shaun Greenhalgh, the 47-year-old talent behind the fakes, had lived at home all his life, until he was sent to prison in November, 2007.

"In police interviews, heard in the programme for the first time, he said he turned to forgery because he believed he'd never be recognised as an artist in his own right and that the art world was only interested in works of art if they were by a famous name."

In the documentary, Greenhalgh will tell how making the fakes became a compulsion, saying in a recorded police interview: "I just have to do it for some reason."

The master forger faked paintings, sculptures and ancient artefacts in the garden shed of the family's council house in The Crescent, Bromley Cross.

Greenhalgh was helped by his elderly parents, George and Olive, aged 84 and 83, who helped him to con the art world with a series of fakes which were sold to museums, galleries and collectors all over the world over a period of 17 years.

Miss Bower said: "They sailed close to the wind on a number of occasions, with the art squad poised to pay them a visit at least twice during the 1990s."

Finally, in November, 2005, their cottage industry in art and antiquities began to unravel when a minor error in an "ancient" Assyrian tablet Shaun had produced in their garden shed was spotted by the British Museum.

Police raided the family home and found it littered with fakes, among them three of Greenhalgh's previous attempts at creating The Amarna Princess, which was claimed to be a statue of Tutankhamun's sister and more than 3,000 years old.

George Greenhalgh told Bolton Council that he had inherited it from his grandfather. While Greenhalgh was busy carving, casting and painting the forgeries, his elderly father was the salesman behind the operation, helped by wife Olive.

Miss Bower added: "George played the part of the doddery old man to perfection, fooling the various experts that he came across into thinking that he had no idea of the value of what he possessed.

"But the family had, in fact, carefully researched lost masterpieces in art reference books from their local libraries and skilfully assembled stories about the fakes' provenances that some experts and auction houses believed."

Shaun Greenhalgh is serving four years and 10 months in prison for his crimes.

George Greenhalgh was given a two-year prison sentence, suspended for two years, while Olive was given a 12-month suspended sentence.

The family also had assets of £404,250 confiscated by the court and they were ordered to pay £363,000 back to Bolton Museum.

The documentary will be shown on Channel 4 at 9pm on Thursday.