'BIG CAT' SAVAGED DOG|Ed Malone|cfz@eclipse.co.uk|11/28/05 at 23:09:54|obadiah|xx|0||Sunday,November 27: A HORRIFIED horse rider has told how she saw a little terrier being ripped to bits by a big cat in Ashridge Woods.

Nurse Chris Garvey, of Beaconsfield Road, Tring, said she was out on her horse, Burr, earlier this monthand was just 30 feet away when she saw a strange puma-like beast darting out of the undergrowth and attacking the small dog.

Chris said: "I heard a dog barking and there was a blood-curdling roar before the attack. There wasn't any sign of the dog's owner.

"The cat was like a panther or puma and twice the size of a Labrador. It had short, black hair."

Chris watched, helplessly, as it pounced on the black and white dog, then tore it apart in the attack at 2.40pm.

She said: "I just couldn't believe it, but what's more worrying is that whatever it was, it showed no fear of me being close by."

Chris cantered to the Livery Yard, Stocks Farm, Aldbury, and reported the attack to police. So far police have not had any report of a missing dog fitting the description.

Chris said she had witnessed several other strange incidents nearby recently.

She said: "I've seen a dead sheep. The carcass was left there. Then within two days, completely stripped."

Graham Canon, estate manager at the National Trust Ashridge Woods, near Berkhamsted, believes foxes are the culprit for the dead sheep.

He said: "It's common for sheep to be killed by foxes. We've had no physical evidence regarding this cat creature."

Graham said he has received around five reports of seeing this animal but Chris' encounter was the most serious one.

He said everyone who reported sightings was adamant they'd seen something, but whether it was a muntjac deer, a dog or a panther, he doesn't know.

Danny Bamping, who founded The British Big Cats' Society to Prove and Protect' the Big Cats roaming Britain, said that this year alone, it has received more that a dozen bits of video footage.
He said Chris' sighting was one of the more serious.

Danny claims a number of Big Cats have been released in the British Isles over the last 30 years or so with reports of sightings on the increase.

In 2002 the Society had reports of five sightings in Hertfordshire and between April 2004 and July 2005 there were nineteen.