THE curious case of the cartoonist copper is being investigated by Essex Police and world-famous art auction house Sothebys has been called in to assist the inquiries.

The rare riddle began when a volunteer helper at the police museum in Chelmsford came across an envelope with 12 large cartoons donated by a retired officer from Leigh.

It is believed – and hoped – they might be long-lost works of late, great comic artist Frank Minnitt, a former resident of Leigh.

His drawings illustrated the adventures of Billy Bunter, in a highly-popular comic of that name, and in cartoon strips in many well-known publications.

Now the London art experts have been asked to confirm they are authentic originals and how much they may be worth.

Museum curator Becky Wash said: “One of our volunteers was working his way through the archives, documenting items, when he came across the envelope.

“There was a message the cartoons came from a retired police officer from Leigh, and were believed to have been drawn by special constable RG Minson.

“We do not have records for specials from Southend, so we cannot confirm whether a Minson served. But as one of the cartoons is clearly marked FM and the style is very similar to Minnitt’s Billy Bunter work, we have done some more investigating.

“We have discovered Frank Minnitt lived in Leigh during the war years – though whether or not he was a special constable, we’ll probably never know. The drawings do have a couple of Southend area references.

“Now we wait to learn if Sothebys can value them and establish they were drawn by Frank Minnitt, as we assume.”

Minnitt died in 1958 aged 64. He had served in the First World War, as a Coldstream Guard, and survived a mustard gas attack.

He was a self-taught artist whose most well-known work was for the Billy Bunter series. But in his later years, his style was considered too old-fashioned by many editors and publishers.

The police museum, at force headquarters at Springfield, in Chelmsford, is a registered charity. It is open to the public on Wednesday afternoons from 1.30pm to 4pm and the first Saturday each month.

The mystery cartoons, being framed by a Southend company, will eventually go on display there.