HE was the forger who fooled the world, a prodigious talent who, with astonishing ease, turned out a series of fake masterpieces that had the art glitterati in raptures.

From a garden shed at the small home he shared with his elderly parents, Shaun Greenhalgh emulated the work of history’s most revered artists and sculptors.

He achieved global infamy when one of his most intricate pieces — the Amarna Princess, bought by Bolton Council for £440,000 — was revealed as a fake.

From that point, the world of Greenhalgh collapsed, and he is now serving a four-year jail term.

Until now, he has maintained a veil of silence, refusing to speak to anyone about the impact of the case on his life and family.

But in an exclusive letter to The Bolton News, written from his prison cell, Greenhalgh has finally opened his heart.

In the note he tells how:

- He believes the depiction of him and his family in the media has been “a crude distortion”

- That he is an “ordinary person” and not the strange outsider many have been led to believe he is

- That a recent BBC 2 docu-drama about his case was a “character assassination” of his family

Greenhalgh, aged 48, of The Crescent, Bromley Cross, said that as he was currently in jail, he thought it would be “inappropriate” to speak in detail about his case.

“In all probability, this is partly the reason that I have been portrayed in a manner wholly unrecognisable by people familiar with my family and I,” he added.

But Greenhalgh has clearly been stung by his depiction in the media, most recently in BBC2’s The Antique’s Rogue Show, which portrayed him as a loner, under the thrall of his two elderly parents.

He said: “All in all, I consider myself to be an ordinary person with conventional tastes and views, as is the general opinion of my friends and acquaintances and not a strange outsider as depicted.

“Even staff at the prison and others here failed to recognise the persons shown as the one they have come to know. I generally get on as well as most with anyone and am comfortable in most social situations, although certainly not a Jeremy Kyle bleeding-heart type.”

Greenhalgh was jailed for more than four years in 2007 after pleading guilty to conspiracy to defraud and money-laundering. His parents, George and Olive, received suspended jail terms for their part in the cons.

Investigations revealed he and his parents had cheated numerous art institutions over the course of 17 years. Their deception was uncovered when suspicions arose about the origins of the hand-crafted Armarna Princess, which was said to be 3,300 years old and had been authenticated by experts at Christie’s and the British Museum.

But in early 2006 it was revealed as a fake, and a subsequent investigation by the Metropolitan Police unmasked a fraud that shocked the world.

The story has since been covered in newspapers, on television and on the internet. Most recently, it featured in The Antique’s Rogue Show.

Greenhalgh said: “I do not believe that my family has been portrayed fairly. I have no problem with an objective view and have no wish to ‘gild the lily’ so to speak and also recognise the media’s right to pursue public interest.

“But to give what I believe to be a crude distortion of us at a time when I cannot answer for reasons beyond my control is, I think, unfair.”

Writing specifically about The Antique’s Rogue Show, Greenhalgh said: “I did see the programme and think it little short of the character assassination of my family on national TV. Mud sticks doesn’t it? So I suppose it will always colour some peoples image of me.”

Despite his candour about the treatment he has received at the hands of anonymous journalists and filmmakers, Greenhalgh said he would put the record straight about his criminal behaviour, once he has served his sentence.

“I fully intend to speak in relation to my dealings over a long period of time with the art establishment, dealers and others — but I think this is not yet the time or place, due to reasons I have stated,” he said.