A FOSSIL collector picked up a Boxing Day bonanza after discovering a fully formed five-foot-long ichthyosaur fossil on Charmouth Beach.

Alan Saxon, 59, an electronics engineer from Wiltshire, is a keen fossil collector and makes regular trips to Charmouth Beach and Monmouth Beach in Lyme Regis to hunt for fossils.

After he stumbled across the ichthyosaur, Mr Saxon called Paul Crossley from Jurassic Gems in Lyme Regis to help him get the fossil free and remove it from the beach.

The fossil is only missing part of the snout and a few vertebrae from the spine, but apart from that it is fully formed, an incredibly rare find along the beaches with most ichthyosaur fossils found in separate pieces.

It took more than five hours for Mr Saxon, Mr Crossley and a team of volunteers to dig the fossil out. Mr Saxon said: “I was quite lucky really, it was very plain to see.

“The section of beach where it was is normally covered in shingle, but that had been swept away by the bad weather. The first thing of the fossil I saw was a big piece of fossil driftwood poking out from some of the shingle. Then I noticed the long black snout and some teeth coming out of it.

“I was absolutely gobsmacked. I never thought I would find anything like that sort and it was a nice little delayed Christmas present.”

The fossil is estimated to be worth around £6,000 and is now being prepared by local fossil expert Pete Langham.

Mr Saxon added: “The money side of it doesn't interest me really. What I hope to do is have it at home for a little while and then when my wife gets fed up with it give it back to a local organisation, so it can be seen by lots of people.

“I would like to thank Paul Crossley and the other six or seven people as well who helped me dig the rock out. We all ended up working together to try and get it and it was very dark by the time we managed to get it fully out. It was quite a feat really.”

Paul Crossley, from Jurassic Gems, said: “You never really find a complete one so it's a very unique find. It is probably the normal size for the species we think it is, an ichthyosaur communis, which are similar in shape to a dolphin, even though they are in no way related to each other.”