No laughing matter: Bob's jokes are saved

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There was rejoicing yesterday, in some quarters anyway, at the news that comedian Bob Monkhouse's joke books, missing since July last year, had been recovered.

The books, containing the comedian's "life's work", were on their way back to him after his agent Peter Pritchard was handed the books yesterday by a man asking for "a five figure sum".

Mr Monkhouse, 68, presenter of the National Lottery Show, immediately offered a pounds 10,000 reward for the return of the books when they disappeared from his briefcase whilst he was working at the BBC Television Centre in London almost 18 months ago.

The thickly-bound maroon books contained more than 25 years of the comedian's work including fully-scripted jokes and ideas for sketches and plays.

News of the age of some of the jokes brought a wry smile to the faces of several of Mr Monkhouse's colleagues at the time of the theft.

Stan Boardman quipped: "When they find it, how will they know it's a joke book?"

Mr Monkhouse was not amused: "Every idea I have had I write down in the books: dialogue, thoughts for plays, books and shows, all in longhand, and I always kept them in my possession."

Last night a 47-year-old man was helping police with their inquiries after the A4 maroon folders were recovered and a pounds 10,000 reward, handed over.

Mr Monkhouse had started new joke books from scratch after the theft, but the two volumes amounted to his life's work, Mr Pritchard said. "It caused us a lot of problems," he sighed.

Bob Monkhouse said: "My agent told me `your babies have returned home. That which you have inadvertently set free has come home'. To say I am overjoyed would be understating my state of mind. I am ecstatic."