Is the beast back?

COULD Claws be back on the prowl in the Ipswich area?Motorist Steve Fulcher is convinced he saw a large black cat-like creature, larger than a labrador dog, cross the road in front of him as he drove to work.

COULD Claws be back on the prowl in the Ipswich area?

Motorist Steve Fulcher is convinced he saw a large black cat-like creature, larger than a labrador dog, cross the road in front of him as he drove to work.

The creature - which he is convinced was a panther - crossed the A1214 from Rushmere Heath to the open land between Woodbridge Road East during the rush hour on Monday morning.

There was not a great deal of other traffic on the road - shortly before 9am - but Mr Fulcher said a people carrier vehicle was approaching from the opposite direction when the animal bolted across the road.

Mr Fulcher said: “It was larger than a labrador, but it was definitely a cat. It was not a dog at all.

“I've logged my sighting with the British Big Cat Society - I'm sure it was a panther or something like that.”

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He returned to the area to see if he could find any evidence of the big cat - especially footprints in the damp soil.

“I would have thought the ground would have been just right to hold a footprint. I would love to find some evidence of the panther.

“If Rushmere Heath is a regular haunt for something like this then I can't believe no one has seen it before - I don't think I'd fancy walking around the heath if this is around,” he said.

Mr Fulcher's sighting is the first the Evening Star has heard of in the Rushmere area - although in the late 1990s there were several reports of large cats being spotted in the Foxhall and Bucklesham area.

This creature was nicknamed Claws - but despite all the sightings, no positive evidence of its existence was uncovered.

The British Big Cats Society monitors reports of sightings across the country and received more than 60 reports from Suffolk between April 2004 and July 2005.

The number of big cat sightings has increased dramatically over the last 30 years since the Dangerous Animals Act was passed in 1976.

That introduced tight restrictions on people keeping potentially dangerous animals, and it is believed that several unscrupulous owners set their animals free rather than spend money on improved security.

Some of these are thought to have bred in the wild. Large cats like pumas or panthers can have large territories - so sightings from across Suffolk could be of the same creature.

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