Brit campers swore blind they sighted a huge lion prowling free in an Essex village. But it turned out, after a 20-hour high-profile operation followed closely by national media, to be Teddy the cat.
A crack team of 30 police, marksmen, and two police helicopters sped into action after campers claimed to have sighted a lion prowling a neighbouring field. They were flanked by hordes of British media, delighted at this development in the midst of the silly season.
The police were alerted by holiday makers Denise and Bob Martin, who swore they saw something very big indeed sitting down and cleaning itself in a field last Sunday evening, next to their holiday park at Earl’s Hall Farm, Essex.
They called for police who were sceptical and demanded corroboration. Obligingly caravanners Stephen and Gill Atkin went to have a look.
Mr Atkin told the UK paper The Daily Mail: “I went out and had a look through the binoculars. I saw what I’m sure was a very big cat. I thought, “Christ – that’s a lion.” It was big, about the length of two sheep.
“It was 200 yards away but I wasn’t worried as we were nearer to the safety of our caravan than it was to us.”
Residents were warned to stay indoors, and caravanners move to a garden centre nearby.
But search teams found no evidence of a lion and the search has been stepped down.
But local resident Ginny Murphy says the photograph taken is her 28-inch-long pet cat, Teddy Bear. Ms Murphy told BBC News: “From the picture, he’s identical – he’s big, he’s always out in the fields.
“Maine Coons like to hunt, and where he was is a particular area he likes to go.
“He’s always coming back with birds.”