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Tuesday, 3 September, 2002, 10:06 GMT 11:06 UK
Air and land search for 'big cats'
Big cat sightings Wales map
Big cats have been spotted across Wales
A major search was carried out on Tuesday after two large unidentified 'cat like' animals were spotted by police in south east Wales.

Two helicopters fitted with thermal imaging cameras scoured the area above farmland at Goldcliff on the edge of Newport.

Peter Beese
Peter Beese has seen the big cat about 10 times

Police marksman searched the Gwent levels and experts from Bristol Zoo were alerted.

Despite the detailed search of the area, no further sightings of the cats were reported and the search was scaled down.

The cats were first spotted by Peter Beese, from his house at 0820 BST on Tuesday, while he was bird watching.

"I scanned the field with my binoculars and saw the first one.

"It was walking across the field before it disappeared into a dip - the size of it, made my Alsatian dog look small.

"In the meantime, the police arrived - they were looking at me like I was a nut.


When we saw the animal we couldn't believe what we were seeing

Pc Jodie Warren, Gwent Police

"Then, I gave one of them the binoculars and one of them spotted its head and they were both shocked.

"Shortly after, we spotted the other one. We watched them for about 20 minutes.

"I've seen it about ten times in the three years we've been here," said Mr Beese.

Sighting confirmed

The two officers who went to investigate confirmed the sighting before the animals disappeared from sight.

Pc Jodie Warren and Pc Mark Jones admitted they were cynical about the reported sighting of the big cat.

"We both went to the call and were very sceptical about it," said Pc Warren.

"But when we saw the animal we couldn't believe what we were seeing.


It was a big as the front wheel of the tractor

Pc Mark Jones, Gwent Police

"At first we saw what we thought was the head of a domestic cat.

"Then we got the binoculars and we could see it was a lot bigger than that.

"We saw a black feline animal about 300 yards in front of us," she added.

Colleague Pc Mark Jones said it was only as one of the animals stood next to a tractor could they see how big they really were.

"It was a big as the front wheel of the tractor," he said.

"The first one was at least two and a half feet tall - the other was half its size.

"The animals were very calm and confident. They seemed to know what they were doing and didn't panic at all," he said.

The latest sighting comes less than a week after a monitoring group said big cats were on the loose in Britain and breeding their way towards record numbers.

The British Big Cats Society said it has received more than 800 reports of animals including pumas, black panthers, leopards and so-called Fen tigers over the past 12 months.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Wales' Nick Palit
"The police operation to find the big cat centred on the Gwent Levels"

More news from south east Wales
See also:

28 Aug 02 | UK
03 Jul 02 | Scotland
05 Feb 00 | UK
19 Aug 99 | UK
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