Monday, August 27, 2012

Police stop lion search which may have been tall tale

Witnesses were convinced they'd seen a lion, but less than 24 hours after police launched a hunt for the beast of St Osyth the search was called off.

Initially convinced there was some credence to the reports of a lion having been spotted in the Essex countryside, armed police aided by a helicopter with thermal imaging equipment combed through the area surrounding the coastal village. Residents near the village were also warned to stay inside. But having found no evidence of droppings or paw prints, the search was called off by late Monday afternoon.

"Massive" cat

Witnesses insisted they had seen a large cat and that they had watched it for up to twenty minutes. "It was pawing itself and rolling around," one man told Sky News. Gill and Steve Atkin who took pictures of the now elusive beast described it as "massive".

The animal was seen near Earl Hall Drive in St Osyth, near Clacton-on-Sea, by holidaymaker Bob Martin at about 19:00 BST [18:00 GMT] on Sunday. He said both he and his wife Denise saw a large cat and a lion "was the first thing that came to mind".

But despite a massive lion hunt, there was no sign of the creature, perhaps scared off by journalists who descended on the area or the media helicopters and planes which periodically buzzed the area where it was sighted.


Later in the day a picture of the 'lion' emerged, though there was some skepticism expressed concerning its authenticity. Meanwhile questions are still being asked concerning where the animal might have come from, if indeed the whole affair was not a hoax.

Nearby Colchester Zoo confirmed it had not lost any of its feline residents. Meanwhile a spokesman from a circus, which had recently visited the area, said they had not possessed lions for some years and they had not lost any of their other animals.

A police spokesman said, "We believe what was seen on Sunday evening was either a large domestic cat or a wildcat. Extensive searches have been carried out, areas examined and witnesses spoken to - yet nothing has been found to suggest that a lion was in the area."

"The reporting of the animal is not being treated as a hoax, but should such information come to light we will have no hesitation in making arrests." [Telegraph / Guardian / Globe & Mail]

Media interest

Hoax or not, the story made entertaining television and news spread around the globe being picked up by media outlets in the US, Africa and as far away as New Zealand.

The story trended on Twitter for much of the day with many making light of the possible sighting. Some suggested that the Essex beast should eat the entire cast of TOWIE [The Only Way Is Essex] while many posted pictures showing what an Essex lion might look like [Daily Mail].

It is not the first time a large cat has allegedly been spotted in Essex. In 1998 a lion was supposedly seen in the south of the county and became known as the 'Beast of Brentwood'

[BBC / Sky / Telegraph / Guardian / IndependentDaily Mail / Sun / Mirror / CNNCBS / Hong Kong StandardSMH / Herald Sun / New Zealand Herald]   

tvnewswatch, London, UK

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