Riverbank stroll turns to big cat terror for Brian|Richard_F|richard@cfz.org.uk|06/11/07 at 12:07:57|richard_f|xx|0||From the Sunderland Echo (UK): 28 May 2007
Riverbank stroll turns to big cat terror for Brian
By Danielle Beeton

Petrified pensioner Brian Wardle today told of the terrifying moment he came
face-to-face with a menacing giant black cat.

The 68-year-old was taking a relaxing stroll along the riverbank in North
Hylton when he spotted the beast about 50 or 60 feet away.

Stunned, Brian stopped in his tracks, too scared to move in case what he
claims was a big cat pounced.

"It was the size of Labrador - a big black cat, jet black all over," said
the retired ship painter.

"It was just sitting on the path staring at me and I was frozen stiff. I
didn't dare move."

The animal continued to stare at Brian for the next two to three minutes,
until eventually scampering off into nearby undergrowth.

Now Brian, of Riddings Road, Red House, is trying to come to terms with his
encounter, and says family and friends are finding it hard to believe.

But Mark Fraser, founder of Big Cats In Britain (BCIB), an investigative
group which has been set up to research the big cat phenomenon in the UK,
says that sightings of this kind are not unusual.

He said: "We have a couple of sightings a day from all over the British
Isles. Obviously there are mistakes, but it's definitely not a rare

"The North East has a long history of reports of large black cats.

We're always hearing about sightings in Sunderland and Tyneside. We have
done for the past 20 to 30 years."

According to Mr Fraser, there are many theories as to why so many large cats
are apparently seen roaming around the British countryside.

One of the most popular theories is that it is a result of the 1976 Wildlife
Act, which outlawed big cats such as lions, cheetahs and jaguars being kept
as pets - leaving hundreds if not thousands prowling wild in the

Mr Fraser added: "Other theories include them being smuggled from Ireland
when they were still being allowed to be kept as pets over there, or from
travelling circuses, and also it is said that Russian sailors used to use
them as currency."