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 Wednesday, 3 July, 2002, 18:29 GMT 19:29 UK
Big cat search in hospital grounds
Puma
Witnesses said the big cat resembled a puma
A search was launched in Renfrewshire after reported sightings of a big cat in the grounds of a hospital.

Three people said they had seen the animal - which experts believe may be a puma - in the grounds of Merchiston Hospital, in Johnstone, on Wednesday.

It is said to be 5ft long and tan coloured, with pointed ears and a long tail.

Merchiston Hospital
The cat was seen near the hospital
A police helicopter was involved in a sweep of the area as vets with tranquilliser guns were placed on standby.

The 170 patients at the psychiatric hospital were kept indoors following the sightings between 1200 and 1400 BST.

However, the search failed to turn up any trace of the creature and the operation was stood down by 1600 BST.

A spokeswoman for Strathclyde Police said the animal had been described as a puma or lynx.

"Independent witnesses said it was 5ft in length with pointed ears, tan in colour with a long tail," the spokeswoman said.

Hospital staff

"Police forces receive numerous reports of these types of creature, predominately in northern parts of Scotland, but there have never been any reports of a person being attacked by one."

The hospital's site manager, Robert Clark, said the animal had first been sighted near a rock in the grounds.

"It had come out onto the grass then slinked away back into the grass towards the trees," he said.

Two other hospital staff then saw the animal only 200ft away from them.

Police say no such animals have been reported missing.

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  BBC Scotland's Fiona Walker reports
"The sighting sparked a detailed police and helicopter search"
See also:

28 Jan 02 | England
30 Dec 02 | England
25 Aug 00 | Wales
05 Feb 00 | UK
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