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Saturday, November 13, 1999 Published at 13:31 GMT


HI-tech search for Beast of Bodmin

This is thought to be the Beast of Bodmin caught on film

RAF reserve volunteers are using state-of-the art equipment to try and catch a glimpse of the Beast of Bodmin stalking the Cornwall moor by night.

The men and women who are giving up their Saturday night are all members of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, the RAF's equivalent of the Territorial Army.

They will be lying in ditches and under hedges with their night-vision equipment and seismic-intruder devices trained on areas of the moor where sightings have been reported.

The existence of big cats on Bodmin Moor has never been proven beyond doubt, although many Cornish farmers maintain they have lost sheep to large, savage animals.

Experts say the moor could be home to a small population of a species of wild cat, which was thought to have become extinct in Britain more than a century ago.

Essential training

Squadron Leader Andrew McCombe, of the 2625 County of Cornwall Squadron, told BBC News Online: "The men and women taking part are civilians who work five days a week, so I want to make their weekends as interesting as possible.

"Instead of just doing exercises, with my people pretending to be the enemy, they can practise using observation equipment while looking for the Beast of Bodmin".

Sqd Ldr McCombe added that the skills used in the night time operation in Cornwall are the same as those used when staffing observation posts on the edges of RAF airfields.

Four members of the 2625 County of Cornwall squadron have served in Kosovo and eight have been on active duty in Kuwait.

Cameras and offal

Sixteen men and women will be digging in for the night on the moor equipped with night-vision sights, which intensify existing light, and seismic- intruder devises, which detect vibration.

They will also be using thermal imaging equipment.

One of the reservists is a chef and he has provided the chicken offal which will be used to attract animals.

The squadron's aim, apart from training and entertaining the troops, is to photograph or film any large animals. Nothing will be shot or captured.

In August 1998 a 20-second video was released and was declared by some wild cat experts to be the best evidence yet that big cats roam Bodmin Moor.

There have been around 60 big cat sightings recorded in the area since 1983 but in 1995 a government report concluded there was no evidence that big cats existed on the moor

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