Boris Johnson said he “yearns to believe” in the Loch Ness monster – despite new research suggesting the legend is most likely to have been sparked by sightings of giant eels.
The Prime Minister said he had wanted the mythical creature to be real when he was child, adding “part of me still does”.
He was asked his views on the matter as he visited Scotland the day after scientists who combed the loch for samples of environmental DNA said it was unlikely Nessie is the last surviving prehistoric reptile.
The findings of the research, led by Professor Neil Gemmell from the University of Otago in New Zealand, debunked one of the most popular theories – that the Loch Ness Monster could be a reptile, or population of reptiles, which survived from the time of the dinosaurs, such as a plesiosaur.
Other theories have suggested Nessie may be a giant catfish, a giant sturgeon, an eel or even a Greenland shark, which can live for up to 500 years – but the only possibility not ruled out by the research was that of a giant eel – perhaps explaining Nessie’s looped shape in the public imagination.
Professor Gemmel added it was “not impossible” an eel could grow to be as big as around 13ft, the size suggested by some of the supposed sightings.
Mr Johnson said: “A high concentration of eel DNA in the water, that does not seem to me to be conclusive proof of the non-existence of the Loch Ness Monster.
“I am not taking that as conclusive proof of non-existence of the Loch Ness Monster.”
The Prime Minister said: “As a kid I yearned to believe in it.
“I yearned … part of me still does.”
He added: “Let me put in this way, there is a part of my soul that still yearns to believe.”