Jogger reports 'big cat sighting' in Suffolk field
PUBLISHED: 12:45 15 January 2016 | UPDATED: 08:52 18 January 2016
A Suffolk student has described his hair-raising brush with what he believes was a panther-like creature on a village playing field.
Is Eliot Evans’ encounter the latest reappearance of ‘Claws’?
The story of Claws goes back as far as 1996, when a member of the public reported sightings of what looked like a panther in the Foxhall Road area of Ipswich.
In May 1998, two wildlife watchers in Holton St Mary saw a black cat running across the A12.
In 2003 June Fooks of Eye reported seeing a cat bigger than her Labrador prowling in her garden.
Meanwhile in November 2012 there were reports of a big cat at a landfill site in Great Blakenham.
Eliot Evans, a sixth-former at Thomas Mills High School, in Framlingham, says he came face-to-face with a frighteningly large feline while out for an evening jog near his home in Wickham Market.
The 16-year-old explained how he met eyes with the beast as night descended on Simon’s Cross playing field, which is on the route he runs almost every other day.
“I has started to do some sprints and was coming down towards the tennis courts when I saw what I first thought was a large dog – but I also realised I was the only person on the field, so it couldn’t be with its owner.
“It was still there, staring at me. I thought maybe my eyes were messing with me but I started to feel kind of anxious and sprinted across the pitch.
“I turned back to see it was moving towards me. At this point, I was growing nervous, so I shone the torch on my phone and saw two large eyes, too far apart for it to be any dog.
“It went prone and began coming towards me again. It must have been between four and five feet long, at least.”
Eliot, who is studying biology, as well as maths, psychology and chemistry, has since carried out his own research on local big cat sightings.
His story was picked up by another Wickham Market resident, and former regional representative of the British Big Cat Society, David Galvan, whose own records reveal a history of encounters by people from the local area – including himself.
He thinks what Eliot saw was a melanistic leopard, commonly called black panthers.
“There is plenty of small game in the countryside, but they are omnivores and can survive on just about anything,” said Mr Galvan. “It has been said that a rabbit can carry them for three days before they have to hunt again.
“Big cats are prey-oriented. It’s not a ‘prey action’ to stand and stare – but running away is. The normal human reaction is to stare because the brain can’t accept what is being seen.
“I expect there are enough of them to have mated. One was seen with a belly nearly dragging along the ground, meaning it either had a big feed or was pregnant.
“How many sightings are really big cats, I don’t know, but I have a tendency to believe them based on answers to questions I have asked.”