LOST film footage discovered in a Mid-Devon church may finally have proved the guilt of a Nazi war criminal blamed for thousands of deaths during the Second World War.

A video found in Cullompton's Baptist church, shows SS officer Walter Gieseke overseeing the construction of a 1,000-mile road in occupied Ukraine, along which thousands of prisoners died from exhaustion or were shot.

After the war, Lt-Col Gieseke denied involvement, insisting he was nothing more than a pen-pusher on the project, and he died a free man in 1974.

The video was found in a pile of rubbish at the church in 2006, and was handed to historian Dr Harry Bennett, from the University of Plymouth. After spending the last five years studying the film, Dr Bennett now says it proves Gieseke's guilt.

He said: “He (Gieseke) said he was a 'pen-pusher' who spent his days sat behind a desk and didn't get out much, so he had no idea of the atrocities going on during the building of the road.

“He claimed he was scared of SS members and pointed the blame at other people.

“This footage shows that he was not behind a desk at all. In fact other people in the footage seem to be visibly frightened of him.”

It is believed the film may have been brought to Cullompton by one of the church elders, Reg Whitton, who has since died.

Mr Whitton ran a haulage firm that carried out relief work across Europe at the end of the Second World War, when he is believed to have come across the footage.