JUST like a scene out of the Lion King, big cats have often been seen wandering around Essex – or so it has been claimed on several occasions.

Over the years the county has been the hunting ground for everything from black panthers and the mystery “Beast of Brentwood” to felines too big to be domestic

It remains unknown, however, exactly why the huge-toothed beings would choose to prowl around Essex, but there must be a logical explanation.

Maybe our prey is tastier than in other locations? Could the climate mirror that of their native Africa? Is our selection of coffee shops more appealing than Suffolk’s?

The other possibility is Essex’s big cat sightings have merely been a trick of the light or a result of someone’s poor eyesight or imagination?  Who knows!

Whatever the answer, we have compiled a list of the some of the county’s big cat sightings, so you can make your own mind up.


In 2007 Pensioner Patricia Seagroatt had the shock of her life after she went for a morning stroll - and came eye to eye with a lynx-like cat the size of a Labrador.

The 67-year-old claims to have seen the beast as it hunted a wood pigeon on scrap land in West Mersea Esplanade.

She said she was so "gobsmacked" by the sight she did a double take before going back to the safety of her home to call police.


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Langdon Hills Country Park, Corringham

In the same year as Mrs Seagroatt’s scary sighting, two unsuspecting joggers came across what they believed to be the famous Beast of Brentwood.

Joe Packman and Bob Hearn, members of the Phoenix Striders running club, were jogging along a bridle path when they spied a big black cat.

Speaking at the time, Joe, of Mopsies Road, Basildon, said: "It shot out in front of us and I thought to myself That's one hell of a big tabby cat'.

"But within seconds, I knew it was no ordinary domestic cat.

"It was far too big and too long and the way it moved was more predatory than normal cats."

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In 2008, a mother and daughter called the police after they spotted what they claim was a black panther.

They say they saw the animal between wasteland, where there was building works, and Turner Road, near Colchester General Hospital.

The pair were walking towards the woods when they saw the creature. They told police it was definitely not a dog and was too large to be a domestic cat.

The sighting led some to suggest it could have been the elusive Beast of Essex, which was first spotted lurking in Braintree in the mid-1990s.

Since then there has been more than 80 sightings around the county and big cat expert John Hancock even set up the Essex Big Cat Research Project to look into each of the sightings.


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Roughly 17 years, ago, south Essex farmers pledged to hunt for wild big cats roaming the countryside after several sightings.

The vow came after various sightings in 2002 of a large cat on the loose in Basildon's Wat Tyler Country Park.

During that summer a farmer, who lived near the park, discovered the carcasses of four or five calves which had been eaten down to the bones

A council official also reported they had seen the beast and police at the time monitored the situation, before the number of sightings dried up.


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St Osyth, Clacton

One of the most bizarre searches for a big cat on the loose came in St Osyth, Clacton, in 2012, after a couple spotted a “very large animal”, since dubbed the Essex Lion.

As a result, roughly 25 Essex Police officers were called to where the animal was seen, including specialist firearms officers and experts from Colchester Zoo.

A photograph was then published depicting the so-called ‘lion’, before a resident claimed the beast was in fact her cat, Teddy Bear.


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