IS THE BEAST BACK by Sara Nelson (Newsshopper - April 15th 2007)
A WOMAN has described how her "blood ran cold" after she heard and saw evidence of what she believes is an escaped black panther.
The woman, who does not want to be named, heard the noise of an animal growling in the back garden of her home in The Grove, Biggin Hill, around two weeks ago.
She was in her garden this morning when she noticed deep scratch marks reaching almost 20ft up the trees.
She said: "I heard something growling a few weeks ago and it was blood curdling, but it wasn't today until I made the connection.
"The trees have been scored with huge claw marks going up around 15 to 20ft where it looks like it has leapt up to find a branch to lie on.
"I am really worried because a small child would obviously make a nice snack for something capable of causing such damage.
"Whatever it was it was obviously looking for somewhere to cool down as the weather is getting so hot.
"We have put chicken wire over the base of the trees to stop any more damage and I do not fancy the thought of it coming back."
The woman has contacted the police and says they told her that similar reports had been made, and has also spoken to a member of staff at the Longleat Safari Park in Wiltshire.
She said: "I spoke to a man there and described the marks and he told me it did sound like they had been made by a big cat.
"I also described the growl. When I first heard it I knew the sound was coming from a very large animal, and I thought 'hell, that must be one enormous rotteweiler'.
"My blood just ran cold, it was a low, rumbling, bubbly type of sound.
"Then when I first saw the claw marks I though 'oh the badgers have been sharpening their claws again'.
"It wasn't until I saw the marks going right up the trees that I knew I was wrong.
"I've spoken to people about it who respond with things like 'are you sure it's not a rat my dear or next door's cat?' which is frustrating, but I want to warn people to keep an eye on their kids.
"If someone gets kills or badly damaged, I will feel very guilty."
Ian Turner, who is deputy head warden at Longleat Safari Park, said: "From what she has described it is possible it is a black panther.
"I have advised her to take a picture of it if she can and keep an eye on any livestock in the area.
"It is very doubtful it would attack a human being, unless it was starving."
There have been numerous sightings of an animal dubbed as "The Beast of Bexley" over the past five years, but this is one of the first reported to News Shopper in the Bromley region.
The animal has been spotted at the Hillview Cemetery in Welling, around the woodlands at Shooters Hill, Plumstead Common, Danson Park, Barnehurst and Northumberland Heath and most recently in Silver Spring Close, Erith.
Have you seen or heard anything unusual in the area? Contact the news desk at firstname.lastname@example.org or ring 01689 885723.