The mystery surrounding sightings of a strange UFO over West Oxfordshire has been solved.

Reports of an unusual object in the sky over Witney on the night of the total lunar eclipse led to speculation of extra-terrestrial involvement.

But the origin of the object was much more down to earth. Rather than Mars or Venus, the object actually took off from Moorland Close, Witney.

Witnesses at the time described the unexplained object as "a slow-moving orange light". The mystery was solved when the Oxford Mail was contacted by Sgt Steve Ilott, of Thames Valley Police - who bought the 'UFO' on Internet site eBay.

Rather than alien technology, the 'spacecraft' was a Chinese-style wish balloon, made of paper and wire.

Sgt Illot, who is based in Wantage, ordered the balloon as a birthday surprise for his wife Gail, and launched it from their garden on Saturday, March 3.

The balloon uses a small flame to give it lift. It rose to a height of 200 ft, before drifting off towards Oxford - where people also reported strange lights in the sky.

Sgt Ilot said: "My wife and I had a good laugh, apparently at the expense of the residents of Witney and further afield, because we knew the answer to the mystery.

"We couldn't believe it when we saw it in the paper. We couldn't stop laughing."

He added: "Even though I appreciate that Witney does have some strange goings-on, this is most certainly one of those that has a fully documented explanation.

"To anybody who saw it, it was a UFO, because it was unidentified, it was flying, and it was an object - unfortunately, it wasn't extra- terrestrial.

"It does make for a good story though - and made my wife's birthday one she won't forget."

One of the people who saw the 'UFO' was Derek Hall, of Jacobs Mill, Witney. He said he was glad the mystery had been solved.

He said: "What made it strange was the fact that it changed direction. It's good to know what it was."