City dwellers who take comfort from the knowledge that wild beasts are restricted to windswept moors are in for a shock. A mysterious creature - known locally as the Beast of Chiswick - has been skulking through gardens in the early hours, leaving a trail of savaged animals.

It is a frequent visitor to the garden of the of Verona Convent, Chiswick Lane, where it digs large holes. Sister Barbara said yesterday she had seen it several times 'in the early morning dirtying the place. I don't know why it digs the holes, but it is a nuisance.

Sightings have been occurring at the rate of two a week for the past month according to the Brentford Chiswick and Isleworth Times, which has set up a telephone hotline for reported appearances.

Callers have seen the beast tearing open sacks of rubbish, but one early morning commuter found his route to work littered with the remains of disemboweled pigeons.

Sceptics say the beast is a fox, but believers say it is too large, nearer a metre in length, and with a lion's colouring.

London Zoo said yesterday that none of its animals was missing.