SIGHTINGS of an unusual-looking animal in the sewer network in the North West, which we reported this morning, were an April Fools Day hoax.

The creature, dubbed 'Messie', was described as being 'far too big for a rat, standing upright on strong back legs'.

Grainy CCTV footage of the 'creature' was filmed in real sewers as part of the stunt.

Water company United Utilities came up with the idea to highlight the perils of flushing inappropriate items down the loo.

It clears 15,000 sewer blockages a year after the wrong items are flushed away.

The blockages cause sewage to flood onto roads, pavements, rivers and even into customers' homes.

Rose Francis, United Utilities campaign manager, said: "The real monsters lurking in the sewers are the baby wipes, cotton buds and nappies which clog pipes and cause flooding.

"It's a big issue, as the resulting flooding can cause real distress for households, and pollute local watercourses.

"By using a bin in the bathroom instead of flushing waste, many of these flooding incidents can be avoided."

According to the Consumer Council for Water, three quarters of all sewer blockages - and half of all cases of sewer flooding - are caused by people putting items they shouldn't down the loo or the sink.

Among the more unsual items found in North West sewers in recent years are a railway sleeper, false teeth, bullets, a motorbike, a wad of used banknotes and a live salamander.

United Utilities' What Not To Flush marketing campaign uses school visits, advertising and PR stunts to encourage customers to think before they flush.

The campaign goes by the tagline "What you flush could come back to haunt you."