‘Essex lion’: Romford man tells of terror

A Romford man said he was “a million per cent” sure that the creature he saw near a caravan site was the ‘Essex lion’ – reportedly on the loose at the weekend.

Rich Baker, 39, who was holidaying with his family in St Osyth, said: “A man started running towards us yelling ‘It’s a f****** lion!’. He looked so panicked you knew it was not a joke. You could see the lion from the side.

“It was one million per cent a lion. It was a tan colour with a big mane, it was fully grown, it was definitely a lion. It was just standing there; it seemed to be enjoying itself.”

Mr Baker, who was out with his two sons, aged nine and 11, said they had made a dash to the safety of their caravan on the site at Earls Hall Farm.

He said: “I grabbed my children’s hands and we ran towards our caravan. My children started to scream, “Daddy, is the lion going to get us?”

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Essex police have now called off its widespread search for the lion and suggested the animal was more likely a large domestic cat or wildcat.

Officers spent almost 24 hours combing the countryside around Clacton-on-Sea, Essex, after residents and holidaymakers claimed on Sunday to have seen the big cat near Earls Hall Drive, in St Osyth.

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But search teams, including helicopters with heat-seeking equipment and experts from Colchester Zoo, found nothing

The culprit, according to the Daily Mirror, could have been Tom, a 12-year-old ginger tomcat that lives at an old people’s home nearby and likes to prowl the fields.

Police were shown images of the animal captured by a local and could not rule out that it was a lion.

Denise Martin, a warehouse operative from Canvey Island, was the first to spot the beast.

She said: “We had a look and it looked like a lion,” she said. “I said to my husband ‘What do you make of that?’ He said: ‘That’s a lion.’ We walked out of the caravan nearer to the field to get a better look.”

She said the lion was tan coloured with a white chest.

Police said they had to take the reports seriously because of their duty to protect public safety.

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