“I heard the Essex lion roar behind my house”: Fear of residents told to stay at home as police launch hunt for “big cat”
30 police officers, marksmen and two helicopters in searchPanicked man running towards family yelled: “It”s a f****** lion!”
Family playing backgammon in front room heard very loud roar
Residents of a village where a lion is believed to be on the loose have today spoken of their fear after police launched a huge search for the beast.
Armed police and helicopters are searching for the big cat after it was spotted in fields near Clacton, Essex.
Two force helicopters and around 30 police officers were scrambled after locals reported the sighting. One witness described onlookers screaming as they came face to face with the predator.
Others sitting in nearby homes told how they heard it roar as it prowled the area. Rich Baker, 39, was walking with his two boys, aged nine and 11 when the drama unfolded.
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Beware: Village green at St Osyth (pictured) near to where the beast is believed to have been spotted
The Lion sightings: The big cat was seen in fields near Clacton-on-Sea (file photo)
He said: “A man started running towards us yelling “It’s a f****** lion!” He looked so panicked you knewit was not a joke. The lion you could see it from the side.’
The van driver, from Romford, Essex, continued: “I grabbed my children’s hands and we ran towards our caravan. My children started to scream, “daddy, is the lion going to getus”
“It was one million per cent a lion. It was a tan colour with a big mane, it was fully grown, it was definitely a lion. It was just standing there, it seemed to be enjoying itself.
“There were a dozen or so people who saw it. We are staying on the caravan park down the road. It’s very busy– it’s a seaside resort and a bank holiday.’
Che Kevlin, 40, who lives nearby the scene of the drama, described hearing the lion roar.
He said: “I was sitting with my wife in the front room playing backgammon at around 10pm when I heard this very loud roar.
“I asked my wife if she’d heard something, it was so odd. I went upstairs to check on my 11-year-old son, but he was fast asleep.
“It was incredibly odd to hear something like that at that time of night.
“We had been for a walk earlier in the day and heard a police helicopter but didn’t realise they were looking for a lion.
“We were trying to work out what the roar was. It was not until my brother texted me 20 minutes later and said there’s a lion on the loose in your area that we realised what exactly it was.
“My guess is that it was in the fields or woods behind our house.
“It was very, very loud. I’ve only heard what a lion sounds like on TV wildlife programmes, but it was definitely that.’
Essex police said they believed the reports to be genuine after a group of people who had been walking closeto fields in the village of St Osyth at around 7pm took a photograph ofthe animal.
Officers were last night working with experts from Colchester Zoo to track down the animal.
They will try to tranquilise the creature if it is found. The animal is not thought to have come from the zoo as all their animals have been accounted for.
Police hunt: Armed police are hunting a lion which was spotted in fields near a caravan site in St Osyth, Essex (pictured)
Circus performer Martin Lacey (pictured), who has been training lions for forty years, is the owner of The Great British Circus which had been running at Clacton Airfield nearby
On the loose: The lion was spotted in the village of St Osyth, near Clacton, Essex
Another witness, Rob Hull, who works as a barman at the nearby Tudor Bar social club, had already heard aboutthe lion when he saw it ambling through the field.
He said: “I was in my car as I had just gone to get some petrol when I saw it in the field next to the road. It was ambling laconically along by the lake in the field, like itdidn’t have a care in the world.
“I had already heard about it. It was already all over Facebook and Twitter.’
It was originally believed the animal could have escaped from a circus that had been performing nearby. The Great BritishCircus had been running at Clacton Airfield, less than two miles away, until August 8.
The circus website includes video footage of lions performing as part of its show.
Last night there were conflicting reports over whether the circus had been touring with lions or not.
An Essex police spokesman said: “Officers have spoken to the circus and confirmed that they do not have an animal missing, nor do they have any lions.”
Owner of the circus Martin Lacey announced last week he was cutting down on wild animals that were to be banned from circuses.
“I am 70 this year so have decided to finish now,’ he told Horse and Hound magazine.
He was seeking new owners for performing horses and a zebra that had been dropped from the circus. He had reportedly also sold a tiger to Italy.
Last night he could not be contacted for comment.
Pub landlord Dave Sparks, who runs the Red Lion pub in St Osyth, described the police hunt as “surreal”.
He said: “You don’t really expect to be told there’s a lion wandering around the area.”
Roger Lord, of Earls Hall Farm, St Osyth, said a picture of the suspected lion had been taken by residents in caravans on the farm land and passed to police.
“The first thing we knew about it was a phone call from the police last night,” he said.
“I am sceptical – I think it might just well be a large domestic cat butthey certainly saw something that they were were concerned about and they went down the right route to the police.
“They have taken it very seriously and have put two helicopters up in the air and I don”t know how many armed police that we still have on site now. They have taken it very seriously.”
He added he believed most of the residents of the caravans were on site at the time of the sighting.
“I think most of them were on site at the time, so more than one person saw it,” he said.
Overnight police helicopters were using heat-seeking cameras to scan fields and woods.
A police spokesman said: “The large cat, believed to be a lion, was seen in fields off Earls Hall Drive in St Oysth, near Clacton, just before 7pm on Sunday.
Essex Police tweeted today: “Residents of St Osyth are advised to enjoy the Bank Holiday Monday but to be cautious. Officers still in the area conducting searches.”
A spokesman also said police would today be looking out for signs the lion had been in the area, such as pawprints.
Police are trying to establish where the lion may have come from. Anyone who sees the lion is advised to call 999.
AND IS THERE A PANTHER ON THE LOOSE TOO
Beast: The creature, thought to be a panther, was spotted in the early hours of this morning (file photo)
A panther has been spotted on the loose in the Cotswolds today.
Kieran Bourne, 30, said he was convinced he saw a big cat in his headlights as he made his way home across Cleeve Hill in the early hours of this morning.
He nearly collided with the animal by the side of the road, swerved, and saw it pounce into the bushes and disappear.
Mr Bourne, who contacted a big cat expert after the sighting, believed it was the same creature which shocked residents in fields at Winchcombe, near Cheltenham, in April.
He said: ‘It looked at me from the side of the road. I was coming round quite a sharp bend from Winchcombe up the hill to Cleeve Hill and it was on the left hand side of the road in my main beam – I nearly hit it.
‘It was the size of a large dog, about 2.5ft high and about 4ft long with a U-shaped tail curled upwards.
‘I swerved to the right to make sure I didn’t hit it and it pounced into the bushes.
‘I’m now 100 per cent sure it was a big black cat, with no markings on. It’s out there.’