Tale takes twist as black beasts find new pastures to prowl

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The Independent Online
ONE OF Britain's strangest sagas - the unconfirmed sightings of mysterious big cats in unlikely places - took a new twist yesterday.

In South Yorkshire, a lorry driver said he had seen a large black cat eating in a field next to the M18 near Doncaster, and in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, Howard Pattison, a newsagent, and his daughter Laura, eight, reported seeing a cat the size of a large black dog in a field near their back garden. 'I was a bit scared,' Laura said.

In the New Forest in Hampshire, at least five people saw what they described as a huge black beast savaging a collie, then terrorising ponies. According to a spokesman for Lymington police, a man they are not naming, but believed to be a credible witness, came into their police station yesterday with his story.

'He and several other people saw a large animal, a huge black thing with a very long tail, bounding along the the disused railway track towards Brockenhurst. He said it had attacked a dog and was scattering ponies in terror.'

The New Forest keepers were dispatched to the area to hunt for the beast. 'They have not found any tracks yet, but they found a collie dog with a broken leg,' the spokesman said.

Geographically at least, the animal likely to become known as the Lymington leopard comes between its two best known predecessors, the beast of Exmoor and the Surrey puma. The beast of Exmoor - also known as the beast of Dartmoor and the beast of Bodmin - was first seen in 1983, and at the height of its notoriety was accused of killing a sheep a day.

A plastercast of a footprint said to have been left by the animal has been identified as that of a 150lb puma. The Surrey puma, probably no relation, turned up 718 times between 1963 and 1985.

Other notorious wild animals include the Kidderminster jungle cat, seen six times in 1992, and the East Sussex panther, only spotted once, but clearly a beast with dramatic sense, making his sole appearance at Glyndebourne in 1989.

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