LONDON – It sounded too good to be true. Turns out it probably was. A long-sought trove of rare Beatles (search) material that reportedly was found last month by a lucky British tourist remains lost, a leading Beatles expert says.
Last month, The Times newspaper reported that a suitcase bought by Fraser Claughton, 41, at an Australian flea market for about $35 was packed with Beatles memorabilia, including photos, concert programs and unreleased recordings.
But Pete Nash, a memorabilia expert from the British Beatles Fan Club (search) who examined the contents of the suitcase on behalf of a British television channel, said he saw photocopied ticket stubs, laser-scanned pictures from the 1990s — and no rare reel-to-reel recordings.
"It's farcical, really," Nash told The Associated Press.
Neither The Times nor the reporter who wrote the original story wished to comment Wednesday.
Claughton does not have a listed telephone number, and could not be reached for comment. John Read, a friend and pop memorablia dealer who has spoken for him on the issue, did not return calls.
The story of Claughton's alleged discovery was picked up by media outlets around the world, including the AP.
The Times reported that among the contents of the suitcase was a reel-to-reel tape that included John Lennon (search) and Paul McCartney (search) experimenting with alternative versions of previously unrecorded tracks.
The newspaper quoted an expert with Christie's auction house as saying the find "sounds very exciting indeed," but a spokeswoman stressed to the AP that the auction house had not been contacted about evaluating the find and none of its experts had seen it.
The Times had said some experts believed the collection was the lost "Mal Evans archive," (search) originally belonging to the Beatles' roadie and sound recordist.
Evans was killed by police in Los Angeles in 1976 after brandishing a fake gun. His belongings were lost during the police investigation and have never been recovered.
Nash said many of the items in the suitcase appeared to be copies, including laser-scanned photos dating from the mid-1990s and ticket stubs for The Beatles' appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show" and the premiere of "A Hard Day's Night" that were reproductions of images from "Lennon Legend," a book published last year.
"There was nothing to tie it to Mal Evans whatsoever," Nash said.
He said he asked to see the reel-to-reel tapes but was told "they were locked away in a bank vault."
"They said the tapes were still housed in their metal canisters," Nash said. "Audio tape is magnetic. One thing you do not do is store it in metal canisters."
Nash said he was played some tracks on CD that were "very common (bootleg) tracks that most Beatles collectors would own."
Geoff Baker, spokesman for The Beatles' label, Apple Corps, also said he believed the find was a fake.
The Evans archive remains a grail for Beatles collectors. Evans traveled with the band from the early 1960s and amassed a collection that would be worth millions if it turned up, Nash said.
"He used to pick up the rubbish in the studio, including The Beatles' handwritten notes and lyrics," Nash said.
In 1998, a notebook compiled by Evans, containing draft lyrics for "Hey Jude" and "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," sold for $185,000 at a London auction.
A year earlier, McCartney obtained an injunction to prevent Evans' widow from selling a scrap of paper bearing the original lyrics to "With a Little Help From My Friends."
Evans also completed a book about his time with the band. The manuscript is among the items lost after his death.
"All his personal effects were sent back to the U.K., including his ashes, but none of it arrived," Nash said. "I think it's still lost in the mail."