IT perhaps comes as no surprise to some observers who have viewed a famous image purportedly of Nessie.

Yesterday, a man who took a photograph last year that attracted worldwide interest because it was purportedly of the Loch Ness monster admitted it was a fake.

George Edwards, 61, who boasted of having photographed the world-famous monster, has said the picture which emerged last summer had been "just a bit of fun".

The cruise boat operator on Loch Ness had produced what some observers described as the most convincing Nessie frauds for almost 80 years.

It was compared favourably to the "Surgeon's Photograph" taken by Dr Robert Kenneth Wilson, which was also published widely after it was taken in 1934 supposedly showed the monster's head and neck, but was later proved to be a hoax.

At the time, a Nessie expert said: "It is the best photograph I think I have ever seen."

Mr Edwards showed no remorse for his fraud and said: "So as far as I'm concerned it's perfectly valid.

"It's just a bit of fun. I am quite happy to join the rogues' gallery along with the surgeon who produced the best known picture image of the monster in the world.

"How do you think Loch Ness would have fared over the years without that picture? I have no guilty feelings at all about what I have done."

Mr Edwards has been embroiled in a bitter row with others in the loch's tourist community, who he accuses of taking a "scientific" rather than "fun" approach to Nessie.

He criticised Drumnadrochit Chamber of Commerce for treating the monster as "a myth" and damaging the tourist industry.

He wrote them an open letter in which he said: "Most of the people I talk to on my boat know that it's just a bit of fun.

"What brings more people to Loch Ness - my little stories about Nessie, or the so-called experts going on about big waves and big fish? They should stop taking themselves so seriously.

"At the end of the day there's no such thing as an expert on Loch Ness, just people with an opinion."