Essex was today (Thursday) officially named as one of the top ten "big cat" sighting spots in the country.

Ten of the 487 recorded sightings of strange feline shadows in the undergrowth or the haze of an oversized moggy dashing across a road, were in Essex.

Benfleet has traditionally been associated with having a roaming large cat and other sightings have been noted in Kelvedon and other villages near Colchester.

The figures were released by Fortean Times - the monthly magazine on strange phenomenon and experiences - which claims sightings of what it calls ABCs (Alien Big Cats) have risen steadily since the first sightings in 1963 and rose dramatically last year.

A brush with one of the elusive creatures - which are typically leopard-sized but black or brown with a long tail - has become the most common experience of the unknown, according to the magazine.

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