The scriptwriter of Oxfordshire- based Midsomer Murders has been stunned by a German TV company's audacious bid to recapture Rommel's Gold.

Terry Hodgkinson has been planning a documentary which will focus on a search for the £10m haul of gold and diamonds.

But he was shocked when he discovered that German TV station ZDF stole a march on him by making their own film, which was screened earlier this month.

ZDF carried out covert research missions last year and then sailed to the east coast of the French Mediterranean island of Corsica in February to search for the missing gold.

The treasure was supposedly dumped by the Germans in 1943 after Field Marshal Erwin Rommel's Afrika Korps was driven out of North Africa. The hoard is reputed to have been hidden by SS men, who planned to recover it after the war.

Mr Hodgkinson said: "It was a shock when I found out about the German documentary.

"But the important thing is that they did not succeed in finding the treasure, so their attempt will not harm our efforts whatsoever.

"Their expedition did not have permission from the French maritime authorities, who told them to leave the area after they used divers there.

"Once the Germans declared they were looking for Rommel's Treasure they were told they risked losing their equipment if they returned.

"We will have the advantage of having permission for our expedition from the French maritime archaeological department in Marseilles - we will be mounting the official search."

Mr Hodgkinson, whose wife is French, has a home in Corsica and plans to travel there in the near future to continue negotiations with the French authorities. He is also in talks with a number of TV companies regarding a film about the treasure hunt.

In 1963, Lord Kilbracken, who died last year, led an expedition on the ship Sea Diver to find the gold. Dan Eden, from Oxford, was the expedition's chief engineer.

As part of the proposed documentary, Lord Kilbracken's widow, Sue, is expected to visit Corsica to take part in the search.

No date has yet been set for filming the documentary Mr Hodgkinson wants to help make.

Anja Greulich, editor for documentaries at ZDF, said: "Research was done in 2006 and our expedition was in February of this year.

"Divers used sonar equipment and we shot underwater footage.

"But unfortunately they did not find the treasure."