A DINOSAUR which used to inhabit Bolton Museum and Art Gallery has become 'extinct' for a second time.

Visitors to the museum in the town centre in the 1960s report being impressed by a giant, full scale model of a dinosaur.

But museum staff are mystified - they can't find any record of a replica dinosaur and now say it never existed.

But that flies in the face of more than 40 visitors and a Bolton councillor who swear they remember seeing the dinosaur.

The mystery has been puzzling museum staff and the public alike over the intervening years.

Some visitors believe the bones were that of a Brontosaurus or similar creature, but the museum is convinced it was never there in the first place.

Yet far from laying the prehistoric puzzler to rest, claims that the museum in Le Mans Crescent was home to the dinosaur refuse to go away.

Cllr Alan Rushton, leader of the Conservative group on Bolton Council, said: "One of our dinosaurs is definitely missing!

"Am I supposed to accept that my eyes deceived me, or this enormous dinosaur was a figment of my imagination?

"I remember as a schoolboy going on visits to the museum and standing in awe, looking at it. I raised the matter when I was on the arts committee but we were never able to find any trace of it."

And Anne Wright, head of English at Rumworth School, also remembers the seeing the dinosaur on visits in the early 1960s.

"I remember a huge dinosaur standing in the entrance to the natural history section. One day I went in and it was no longer there.

"Later on, when I asked about it, none of the staff could remember anything about it, but I know I saw it.

"Now nobody seems to know anything about - it's bizarre."

The persistent claims have been leaving staff baffled. In 1992, around 40 Bolton Evening News readers rang in with their recollections following an appeal by museum bosses for information.

But no evidence of the dinosaur having existed emerged from their appeal.

Stephanie Maguire, of Bolton Council, said: "There have been stories and questions about this dinosaur skeleton over the last 20 to 30 years, but there are no records of Bolton Museum ever having owned such a skeleton. The Museum Service have some photographs of the galleries in the 1930s when they opened, but there is no dinosaur.

"In terms of people's memories, it emerged about 50:50 between people insisting it had existed and others insistent it had not. On further questioning, several people realised they had confused us with other museums.

"We have also been through all of our old registers and there is no mention of it. The only conclusion we can draw is that it never existed."

l Do you remember the dinosaur? If so email letters@boltoneveningnews.co.uk, or write to: Letters to the Editor, Bolton Evening News, Churchgate, Bolton, BL1 1DE.