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Unfurgettable: why the beast of Cumbria just won’t go away

Sightings of big cats around the Lake District have been going on for two decades. So who is putting them there?Name: The beast of Cumbria.Age: Hard t

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Sightings of big cats around the Lake District have been going on for two decades. So who is putting them there?

Name: The beast of Cumbria.

Age: Hard to say. Reports of a large cat roaming around the Lake District have been logged since at least 2003.

Appearance: Big, black, shiny, panther-like, piercing yellow eyes, swishing tail, about 1.2 metres long.

Friendly? Apparently not. Likes to rip the heads off sheep.

Why is it in the news now? There has been a spate of recent sightings, with a Facebook group called Big Cats in Cumbria reporting a dozen or so in the past year.

All the same cat? Sounds like there’s more than one. Sharon Larkin-Snowden, who set up the Facebook group, says a puma, a black-and-white leopard and another big cat have all been seen.

Are you sure it’s not a scam to keep tourists out of the Lake District during lockdown? What a conspiracy theorist you are. These sightings have been going on for two decades, and there’s even video evidence of a big cat prowling the hills.

Have people been traumatised? You bet. A businesswoman, Jeni Banks, came face to face with the beast in 2012. “It was a big cat, right here in Carlisle, beside the road,” she reported, at the time. “It was surreal. When I got to Tesco, I called in for some shopping and just blurted it out to the woman at the checkout, saying that I’d just seen a panther!”

Hitchcockian. There seem to be a lot of these tales – and indeed tails. Reports of sightings of big cats across the UK are made to police on average about twice a week. In the past month there have been sightings in Cheshire, Gloucestershire and on the A55 in North Wales.

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