A father-of-one has revealed how he has mistakenly been receiving BBC royalty cheques for the last 20 years - for a television appearance he never made.

Neil Fitzpatrick, 41, said he has received cheques worth thousands of pounds for his apparent acting role in Sherlock Holmes and the Blue Carbuncle – despite the fact the series aired five years before he was born.

In reality, the cheques were intended for an Australian actor of the same name, but despite a string of letters alerting the BBC to their mistake, the payments kept coming.

"It's hilarious really," said Neil, of Scarborough.

"I made one brief appearance on a Welsh language radio show in 1995, which had nothing to do with Sherlock Holmes, and 20 years on I'm still receiving royalty cheques for my part in a major BBC drama, which I apparently starred in."

Neil believes the mix-up may have come from details for him they have on file after he briefly spoke on a BBC Radio Wales show 20 years ago.

Though he admits he has been "tempted", he never cashed any of the cheques.

At first, he sent them back with a letter explaining the situation, but when the BBC took no notice, he began to just throw them in the bin each time they arrived.

"I've sent so many letters and emails over the years," he said. "I've been told it's an accounting error and they're looking into it but the cheques just keep coming.

"Of course, there's been temptation to spend them but I'm quite a risk averse person so I just laugh and throw them in the bin instead."

Most recently, Neil received a cheque for £170, though he estimates around £2,000 has been sent to him in error over the years.

The Australian Neil Fitzpatrick, below, famed for roles in television series including Neighbours, as well as several turns in National Theatre Company productions, was 39 years Mr Fitzpatrick's senior. He died of cancer in 2008.

Neil’s own life has been affected by cancer, having lost a number of family and friends to the disease.

"Whilst the story of the BBC mix-up is quite funny, the sad irony is that my Australian namesake, died of cancer; an illness that has caused much sadness and devastation for my family," he said.

After losing his mother-in-law to breast cancer in 2012 and father to lung cancer in 2013, songwriter Mr Fitzpatrick was inspired to pen a charity single.

"Five years ago, a friend's sister got bowel cancer. Hearing details of everything their family was going through getting more and more harrowing was really traumatic," he said.

"Then I lost members of my own family and decided to rally the troops and raise some money for Cancer Research UK."

Neil wrote, produced and released a song called Apart, which has raised £13,000 for charity to date.

The ballad even won the prestigious 2014 UK International Songwriting Contest.

Neil’s ultimate aim is to raise £25,000 for Cancer Research through his single and a string of charity events.

A spokesperson for BBC Worldwide said: "We're looking into this and it would appear to be an accounting error. Occurrences like this are highly unusual and BBC Worldwide is endeavouring to contact the late Neil Fitzpatrick's estate to make amends."