Police in Essex have confirmed that they have called off their search the naked Royal Prince allegedly seen near Clacton on Sea last weekend. “Despite having over a hundred police officers – some of them armed – and a helicopter scouring the area, we’ve found no trace of any royalty, naked or clothed,” Chief Inspector Jim Nuggetts announced last night, adding that, following checks, all UK royalty were currently accounted for. “None have been reported missing from any palaces, castles or other royal residences during the period of these sightings, whilst there is always the possibility that foreign royalty could have been illegally imported by private collector and gotten loose, we think this highly unlikely.” The search had been triggered by a holiday maker staying at a local caravan park, who had contacted the police claiming to have seen a member of the royal family in a nearby field. “He was just sat there in the grass, stark bollocking naked – that’s how I knew it was a male royal, he scratching his balls,” sixty eight year old Bertram Skitters later told a tabloid newspaper. “He was rolling around in the grass, apparently unconcerned by our presence. After a few minutes he glanced in our direction, got up, yawned, had another scratch, then loped off into some nearby trees.”

Two of Skitters’ fellow holiday makers also witnessed the royal prince cavorting in the field. One of them, sixty six year old Doreen Humplock, had the presence of mind to snatch a photo of the creature on her mobile phone. It was this blurry image which convinced the police to mount their operation. “I know it isn’t very clear, but it there’s no doubt that you can see a naked male figure,” she subsequently explained to reporters. “Most crucially, you can clearly see that the beast has a magnificent mane of red hair, leading us to identify it as Prince Harry.” The identification of the creature as a naked Prince Harry – despite there being clear evidence he was drunk and naked in Las Vegas at the time – resulted in widespread panic across the county, with police advising people to keep their daughters indoors and place any supplies of alcohol or drugs under lock and key. “The possibility that the most predatory of the royal family was on the loose in the area, naked, was something we had to take seriously, particularly in view of the physical evidence,” Chief Inspector Nuggetts told a press conference earlier today, defending his force against accusations of having overreacted. “We didn’t act solely on the basis of a blurry and indistinct picture taken with a cheap mobile phone. Several condoms, an empty vodka bottle and the imprint of a naked male arse were also found in the general area of the original sighting.”

Essex police have come under heavy criticism for their response, with critics pointing out that, despite many false alarms, there has never been a confirmed case of a naked British royal loose in the wild in the UK. “You would have thought they’d have heeded that business in Hampshire last year,” Labour Home Affairs spokesperson Ada Jockula declared in a press statement. “Then half of the local constabulary surrounded a field outside Eastleigh after a member of the public reported having seen an unclothed member of the royal family there – it was only when the downdraft from the blades of the helicopter they’d called in blew the ‘royal’ away that they realised it was simply a blow-up sex doll wearing a Camilla Parker-Bowles mask!” Nevertheless, seasoned royal-watcher Hugh Ropley-Tossington believes that the police in Essex reacted correctly. “It was entirely credible that one of the younger royals might be naked and on the loose. After all, the royal residence of Sandringham isn’t that far away and the papers have been full of the antics of these young pretenders,” he mused in an interview on the BBC’s Newsnight programme. “With former royal hell raisers like Prince Andrew now completely past it, it would only be natural that one of the younger princes would want to establish themselves as being totally beyond ordinary considerations of public decency, let alone the law, on their home territory.” He also pointed out that there were precedents for the incident. “Let’s not forget that time in 1975 when a minor European prince – illegally imported by a collector – escaped captivity in Norfolk,” he told Newsnight viewers. “Stark naked, he tried to open a hospital and two supermarkets. Then went a walkabout around King’s Lynn town centre, before being recaptured!”

Neither does Ropley-Tossington believe that the Essex debacle was the result of a deliberate prank. “The original witnesses definitely believed they had seen a member of royalty naked,” he claimed. “The rest was simply mass hysteria, fuelled by the press.” Indeed, the furore created by the sighting and the subsequent police operation saw a variety of ‘experts’ descend on the area, offering their services to police. Self-styled big game hunter Oscar DuPenis boasted to a local TV news programme that he would capture the ‘rogue royal’ by tethering his sixteen year old daughter naked in a woodland clearing, whilst he lay in wait, observing her through night vision goggles. “The bastards just can’t resist the lure of a young virgin – they can smell them a mile off,” declared the forty-six year old South African. “Before you know it, the ginger bastard will be swaggering into that clearing, flashing his crown jewels at her and trying to impress her with his vast assets and jet-set lifestyle. That’s when I’ll have him right in my sights and I’ll let him have it with a tranquiliser dart!” Unfortunately, despite keeping the girl tethered all night, the nude royal never appeared, leaving DuPenis casting dark aspersions upon his daughter’s chastity. “The bloody little hussy!” he snarled as he was arrested on charges of child cruelty.

Meanwhile, having seen the photograph which sparked the whole panic, a local woman believes that she might have the solution to the mystery of the naked prince. “As soon as I saw it, I knew it was my Arnold,” Fifty-three year old Freda Shackpole told her local newspaper, claiming that the ‘royal prince’ in the picture was actually her nineteen year old unemployed son. “I’d been away on holiday for a couple of weeks and had left him alone in the house. I’m sure he took the opportunity to smoke some of his funny fags. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if it was him those people saw rolling around naked in the field – it isn’t far from our house and he’s always been a bit of an exhibitionist.” Mrs Shackpole also pointed out that, like Prince Harry, her son had ginger hair and was often drunk and disorderly. “He isn’t a bad boy, but with no work he just has too much time on his hands,” she said. Whilst Bertram Skitters remains adamant that what he and his fellow witnesses saw was royalty – “He had too much nobility of bearing as he scratched his pubes to be a mere unemployed commoner” – local journalist Tom Bellowes believes the nudist’s true identity is, indeed, Arnold Shackpole. “The initial misidentification was an easy mistake to make,” he wrote in the Essex Farmer’s Exchange and Mart. “At that distance it is all too easy to mistake some drunken ginger haired unemployed working class layabout for a naked red-haired layabout member of the royal family.”