THE Colorado balloon hoax is really a hoax balloon hoax, the FBI said last night.
Federal investigators say Richard Heene's claim that his six year-old son Falcon was trapped in a runaway balloon was such an obvious hoax that it must itself be part of a slightly larger hoax.
The FBI believes Mr Heene and his wife and children planned the hoax balloon hoax in the hope of hoaxing the local police into believing that it was a genuine balloon hoax.
A spokesman said: "The story of someone hoaxing a small child trapped in a runaway balloon is much more exciting than a child actually being trapped in a runaway balloon.
"You have the initial panic, followed by police suspicions, followed by charges, followed by a fantastic court case, as opposed to a runaway balloon, possibly containing a small child, which everyone loses interest in after a week.
"If the fake hoax had been successful then a year from now you might get a few people asking 'whatever happened to the kid in the runaway balloon?' instead of millions of people saying 'I cannot wait for the runaway balloon hoax trial to start'."
The spokesman added: "The local sheriff has suggested Mr Heene staged a genuine hoax in a bid to generate publicity and get his own reality TV show, but what the sheriff fails to understand is that because Mr Heene has appeared on television for more than five minutes he will get his TV show regardless of whether it had been real, a hoax or a fake hoax.
"It will simply be a reality show about the couple who staged the balloon hoax, instead of a reality show about the couple who thought their little boy was trapped in a runaway balloon when he was actually hiding in the attic.
"And there is nothing that can now stop this from happening."