Tuesday, March 22, 2005
Police organized a search in the Sydenham Park area of south-east London after a local, Anthony Holder, was attacked by a 6ft long black animal while looking for his kitten in his back yard that borders a woodland.
Holder said the animal pounced, knocked him to the ground, and then he was “in its claws for about 30 seconds. Its teeth were out and I tried to defend myself and eventually I got the thing off my body.” Holder was scratched all over his body and suffered swelling and bruising to his hand and the back of his head. He called the police at about 2:15 am while the animal sat in the garden next door.
While Holder was being treated by paramedics, the Metropolitan Police conducted a search of the area. A citizen and a police officer saw the creature, believed by some to be a panther. Another officer also believed he saw the animal and reports it as approximately the size of a Labrador Retriever. The neighbourhood is being patrolled by an armed police response vehicle staffed by officers equipped with rifles and Taser stun guns.
Scotland Yard is currently seeking specialist advice from experts from the RSPCA and London Zoo. A spokeswoman said: “We are trying to establish exactly where the animal may have come from. In the meantime we are asking the public to be vigilant. If anyone does see the animal, do not approach it but dial 9-9-9 immediately.”
People are also being advised to keep pets indoors.
Sightings of big cats have increased in recent years. The notion of a large predator in London was initially dismissed by scientists, but evidence from footprints and droppings has led to other conclusions. The British Big Cat Society estimates 50 to 100 are currently loose across England. Livestock has supposedly been attacked a number of times. Farmers near Burford in Oxfordshire have offered a £5,000 reward for the capture of a large black creature suspected of killing livestock in the area. However, there have been virtually no human encounters.