Something strange was spotted in the skies above West Auckland at the weekend.

Eyewitnesses reported seeing 'strange lights' hovering above the village on Saturday night about 10.30pm, just days before the Ministry of Defence released previously undisclosed information of UFO sightings throughout the UK.

Local police, and a national UFO website, confirmed they had received reports from people concerned about the presence of the unexplained objects.

One witness, Steven Johns, who was travelling back to the area after a day trip to Blackpool reported that the lights were silent and orange, and no more than 100 yards above onlooker's heads.

Mr Johns said a group of people had gathered in the village to watch the spectacle and that the lights slowly disappeared into the distance.

He also said that a nearby helicopter seemed to be watching the display.
"This could no way have been mistaken for anything other than a UFO, I've never seen anything like it and wouldn't believe it if it weren't for seeing it myself," said Mr Johns.

"I turned round the car and saw along with my three passengers three or four orange lights hovering in the sky know more than a hundred yards above the ground and in total silence. As we got closer there was one light hovering right above us. It then began to slowly move away and then disappeared. I also noticed what appeared to be a helicopter looking on in the distance."

Another witness living in Ferryhill, which is 11 miles away from West Auckland, contacted the police after she also saw four orange lights in the sky.

Acting Sergeant Yolland, from Bishop Auckland Police, confirmed a lady had reported seeing four distant lights in the sky behaving in an 'odd manner'.

Wear Valley has seen a spate of UFO spottings in recent months but many have been linked with the latest phenomenon of Chinese sky lanterns.

Act Sgt Yolland said: "Very recently there has been similar incidents in West Auckland and we can confirm that we have found wreckage of miniature hot air balloons in the area."

He said that there was no evidence to suggest that the sightings were aircraft and they had referred the information they had received on to the local air traffic control centre.

Teesdale/Wear Valley has been a hotspot for UFO sightings in recent months and miniature hot air balloons, more commonly known as Chinese lanterns, or Khoom Fay lanterns, are found to be the reason behind the spottings.

Wax wicks are lit inside bamboo framed paper lanterns, which are then let off into the night sky and are commonly used at outdoor celebrations.

A spokesperson for National Air Traffic Services (air traffic control) said no official sightings had been made last Saturday in County Durham.

Did you see the lights in West Auckland or anywhere else in the area? Did you take any video footage or photographs? If so, contact The Mercury on 01388 768758.