The military has been conducting secret tests to find out if British soldiers can be trained to use psychic powers - possibly to locate hidden weapons stores or discover where Osama bin Laden is based.

The Ministry of Defence study, conducted in 2002, involved blindfolding volunteers and asking them to "see" the contents of sealed brown envelopes.

The MoD said the tests, which cost the taxpayer ยฃ18,000, found that "remote viewing theories" had little value and the project was abandoned.

Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act show that 28% of those tested managed a close guess at the contents of the envelopes, which included pictures of a knife and Mother Teresa. But most subjects were hopelessly off the mark, with one falling asleep as he tried to focus on the envelope's content.

Nick Pope, who ran the MoD UFO research programme and worked at the ministry for 21 years, said: "It can only be speculation, but you don't employ that kind of time and effort to find money down the back of the sofa. We must be talking about Bin Laden and weapons of mass destruction."