A missing man was tracked down thanks to movie-style detective work when police spotted a hidden message on an old Christmas card.
Officers thought they had exhausted all options after the 67-year-old man was reported missing last month.
Extensive enquiries suggested the man, from Crook, County Durham, was heading to the Northumberland area.
But with no mobile phone or location, hopes to find the man had started to fade.
In a bid to ensure nothing was missed, PC Bruno Lee and PC Martin Coates decided to recheck the man’s mail where they uncovered the vital clue.
Officers spotted the Christmas card and on holding it up to the light, saw a shimmer of what appeared to be the faint imprint of a word and a phone number.
It appeared somebody had been resting on the card while writing a note, leaving an indent on the card beneath.
From the hidden message, officers were able to make out a phone number in the Alnwick area.
The team carried out further checks to find an address, which ultimately led them to the missing man.
The gentleman confirmed he was safe and well and staying with friends.
Bishop Auckland Response Inspector David Littlefair praised the PCs’ instincts.
He said: “When someone is reported missing it is a worrying time for family and friends and officers will do everything they can to reunite people as quickly as possible.
“Because of the officers’ thoroughness, the missing person was quickly spoken to who confirmed he was safe and well, resulting in a positive outcome and bringing the long investigation to a successful close.
“It’s the kind of thing you see in the movies but it really does show how dedicated our officers are and sometimes you just have to follow your gut instincts – well done Bruno and Martin!”