Big game hunt ends with a small catch

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The Independent Online
IT IS not every day that a lioness can be seen in north London. But when reports came in that one had been spotted in undergrowth at Winchmore Hill, police launched a big game hunt, writes Andrew Gliniecki

A police helicopter and dozens of officers, some with with loudhailers, poured into Winchmore Hill, warning parents to keep children indoors. Zoos were contacted, and circuses with dangerous and exotic animals asked to check whether any animals had gone missing.

The feline suspect was duly brought to book. But it did not quite match its 'two- and-a-half feet tall with short golden hair and big padded paws' description. The ferocious beast turned out to be an inoffensive domestic ginger tom cat - and a not particularly big one at that.

Doug Richardson, assistant curator of mammals at London Zoo, who rushed to the scene with two tranquilliser guns, identified the creature as a pet cat, from photos taken by a witness.

He believes that another sighting near by may have been a bull mastiff dog. But he said the police were right to take the matter seriously because eight 'lioness' sightings had been reported.

The cat, called Bilbo, was later reunited with his owner.