THE mystery of the Tory council candidate who officially polled no votes deepened last night when supporters came forward to say they had backed her.

Shirley Bowes appeared to have made political history when she received no votes in her bid to win a seat on Tony Blair's local council in Sedgefield Borough.

The 72-year-old was unable to vote for herself because she lives outside of the staunchly Labour New Trimdon and Trimdon Grange ward.

But since the story appeared, five voters have come forward to say they did, in fact, put an "X" next to her name.

Despite that, Sedgefield Borough Council said that it was "confident" in the result last night.

Mrs Bowes, who lives in Great Stainton, near Newton Aycliffe, made national headlines when she failed to return a single vote.

But the media attention rang alarm bells for several voters who say they voted for her and the votes have not been counted.

Ian Coulson, 41, who lives in Trimdon Grange said: "I voted for her in protest of the Iraq war.

"The funny thing is, so did my wife and so did my father-in-law.

"I couldn't possibly know what happened to the votes, but something's not right and it's not a true reflection of the political feeling round here at the moment.

"A lot of people are frustrated with the situation and I like to think there are people round here who, given the choice between the Conservatives or the BNP (British National Party), would choose the Conservatives."

The ward was won by Labour's Lucy Hovvels with 441 votes, and the BNP managed to garner 75 votes for their candidate, Amanda Marie Foster.

Sedgefield Borough Council's returning officer, Brian Allen, said that he was "confident in the result" and that Coun Hovvels was the clear winner.

He said that if anyone wanted to contest the result, they would have to lodge an official complaint.

Mr Allen said: "The results of the counts have been accepted by the relevant candidates and the only way to revisit them now would be through an electoral petition."

Mrs Bowes said last night that she was grateful for the support but would not comment further on the missing votes.

Following the result, she admitted running a low-key campaign - having not even told her son that she was standing in the election.