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Goose death fuels big cat fears

A PATHOLOGIST'S report into the death of a goose has fuelled speculation that big cats are roaming the countryside.

After years of mysterious sightings, usually dismissed as being overweight family cats or figments of the imagination, an Edinburgh pathologist has said he is convinced that a goose, handed to him by Essex police for examination, was the victim of a big cat.

"I am of the opinion that it was a lynx that killed the goose," said Ranald Munro, of the Veterinary Laboratory Agency in Edinburgh.

"The goose died following a severing of the spine and bites to the neck. But more interesting was the chest which had been deeply clawed. It is most unusual," he added.

During the past two years numerous sightings of a large animal have been reported in Fyfield and Matching Tye in Essex. But alarm grew after the remains of a 12lb goose was found in nearby North Weald.

Ongar police were unable to explain its injuries and sent the carcass to Dr Munro.

Quentin Rose, Europe's only professional dangerous animal trapper, has been advising Ongar police and is trying to trap the animal.

Mr Rose, who estimates there are 100 big cats living wild in Britain, said: "It's certainly a large cat, a panther I should think."

Sightings of big cat in the wild in Britain date back to 1983. The first was in Cornwall and the animal was dubbed the Beast of Bodmin. Almost 50 sightings or kills were reported in 1984. But a Ministry of Agriculture investigation found "no verifiable evidence". Since then people have reported sightings in Exmoor, Suffolk, Surrey, Hampshire, Scotland and Wales.

Paul Tyler, MP for North Cornwall, has been campaigning for a government investigation.

He said: "The Essex case adds to the jigsaw. Nobody before has put their hand on their heart and said it's a puma, panther or lynx."