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November 17th 2003
Chris Mullins Big Cat Watch
Chris Mullins.Chris Mullins is from Beastwatch UK based in Leicestershire but has investigated various sightings up and down the UK.
Chris Mullins keeps an eye out for the big cat
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WATCH/LISTEN
Listen to what Brian Murphy from The Scottish Big Cat Society has to say about big cats in Lincolnshire and the UK here >>

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Beastwatch UK

Scottish Big Cats Society

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HAVE YOUR SAY

Have you seen the Lindsey Leopard? Or have you managed to take a picture of it?

Have your say, e-mail lincolnshire@bbc.co.uk

SEE ALSO
Big cat watching in the Wolds

Chris Mullins' big cat watch diary

Mark Fraser and Terry Dye's diaries

Sightings of Big Cats in Lincolnshire

The White Cat

Lindsey Leopard - Where are you?

Puma sighting around Lincolnshire

Monday, 17th November 2003,

19.00hrs.

I left the house at approx, 19.00hrs. As I had been running around all day due to a sighting which had been extremely well filmed of a Racoon in someone’s back garden in Bushby, Leicestershire, I’ve since seen some of the footage on the news and it’s unmistakable as to what it is, this is my usual line of work with Beastwatch UK, I don’t usually get involved with big cats other than in and around my Leicestershire home, but decided to break the habit of a lifetime and come to Lincolnshire. Anyhow we were all running later than the originally planned venue of 19.00 – 20.00hrs,

21.30hrs.

Chris Mullins.
Chris with his trusty head torch

I was however the first to arrive at the Richardson’s home at approx 21.30hrs. After talking to Mark on the phone we decided I should make first contact with them due to the time, as we really needed to establish where we could pitch our tents and make base etc., otherwise it would’ve been a night in the car and I myself found this a very uncomfortable , after introducing myself and apologising for the inconvenience of our lateness I explained to the Richardson’s that the rest of the team (Mark Fraser & Brian Murphy) were definitely on their way but running a little behind schedule, due to the fact they were travelling all the way down from Scotland, both of the Richardson’s were very helpful indeed and said that we could erect our tents in their back garden. Mr Richardson who himself was Scottish invited me into his home where tea and biscuits were first on the menu, he told me that he would show me the footage taken of the cat when everyone else had arrived, so to fill the gap so to speak we talked about his encounter whilst waiting for “Mark & Brian” to arrive. When they hadn’t shown by 22.00hrs. Mr Richardson (Sandy) decided to show me the video footage taken that was all ready and waiting in the machine, on the first showing my first impressions were that it was probably a large domestic or feral cat, though at this point I’d kept my opinions to myself, it was a good job too as you’ll find out later on and it’s so easy to end up with egg on your face in this game

The caravan.
A bed for a big cat?

After viewing the video of the cat and the police at work on there also, Sandy took me down the garden which was quite large by comparison, he showed me where everything was including the caravan that was used for storage and which the cat had been filmed, he also pointed out how heavy the side of it was to lift, although I could lift it myself, a domestic cat would have had problems, we then went back to the house and waited upon the rest of the team to arrive.

22.30hrs.

No longer had I sat down again my mobile rang. It was Mark, he was having the same problem finding the place as I did, so I went outside onto the front to guide them in so to speak and wait for them, a couple of minutes later they pulled up.

I’ve only ever met Mark once before, through the White Cat at Minting report, but it was a pleasure to meet up with him again, he’s great to work with and has helped me a lot to establish myself on the net, by giving me some of his old reports etc, as he used to run an exotic wildlife section himself on there. A rare trait nowadays, as a lot of people seem to be in this game for themselves, not sharing anything that might shed the limelight on someone else. Mark introduced me to Brian Murphy; he’s a university graduate who’d studied Ecology in the Environment and majored in the study of the Lynx which is apparently his most favoured cat.

Sandy came out and we all introduced ourselves, we were then invited back in the house and into in the living room “Tea anyone” Mrs Richardson (Julie) said, this was to become one of the most used phrases during our stay there, they were most hospitable, despite the jests from Sandy which most definitely required a sense of humour, he’d a way with words that could make you either laugh or cry and some might take offence if they hadn’t realised it was all just jovial humour, but he made us all feel quite relaxed.

Sandy rewound the video and replayed it again for Mark and Brian, after which we were taken out onto the back garden again and shown everything once more, after which he left us to get on with things, We conversed over the video footage taken and after taking the size of the caravan window of which the dimensions were (28” W x 21” H), we were all in agreement at that point that it may have been a large domestic, though we decided to look further into this before any conclusions were drawn. With the guidance from our head torches we then began to erect our tents down the side of the house, I had the best view of the back garden which that night I lay there awake looking out through my door waiting for something to happen,

Tuesday, 18th November

00.00hrs.

Chris Mullins in his tent.
Home for the next few nights!

It’s been a long time since I’d done this type of work and those memories of Badger and Fox watching nights all came flooding back, with a sigh I lay there gazing into an almost black void, forced to tap into other senses listening out for movement of some kind with camera at the ready, Ahh, the light has just come on, it’s activated by PIR, I wonder what it is? I peered though the door of the tent, its Priscilla, Sandy & Julie’s cat, well at least it was feline. Time and again the light came on during the night, but no big cat was to be seen, well it’s too much to expect on a first evening anyhow, if at all.

02.00hrs.

Mark had just finished a rather long 64hrs. shift before he came over so he was really tired and at periods through the night all I could hear was the sounds of his snoring which was only masked by the wind which began to pick up during the night. So much so I became concerned about our tents and if they were secure enough.

02.15hrs.

All is very quiet now, if it wasn’t for the wind now, you could hear a pin drop, “BANG” what was that, it sounded like something had just hit an oil drum with a stick or stone, but when I was able to think logically it was most likely just an old oil can or drum possibly expanding with the nights temperature. When darkness falls is when you hear most things, which you probably wouldn’t hear at all in the daylight hours, or at least wouldn’t notice a lot of them.

03.15hrs.

Can hear a fox calling out in the distance, about 300yards away to my left I’d say, it must be somewhere in the field at the side of us, possibly moving along the hedgerow.

05.00hrs.

The light keeps coming on but no signs of a big cat and all I can hear now is the wind in the trees, it keeps picking up, I’LL check the guy ropes when it’s light. By now Mark has woken up already he's only had about 3 hours kip, he starts to walk down the garden, I can see his head torch, I’LL let him know I’m still awake, “You OK mate?” “Yeah couldn’t sleep” .

08.00hrs.

Morning and Sandy comes out to offer us in for morning coffee, We all got ready and went in the house the first thing that hit us was the warmth from the fire, “Ahgh Just look at the state of you’s” said Sandy, with his Scottish accent, “Did you see anything?” He asked, “No it was fairly quiet” “the light kept coming on but no big cat“ "Was it cold last night night? He said, “Remarkably not” “we expected to be fighting of the wind and rain whilst trying to erect our tents, but it was quite mild considering”, “Well get yer tea and warm yourselves”, he said, “Would you like some breakfast?” said Mrs Richardson (Julie), “toast or anything”, “No thanks” I said, I can’t remember now if Mark or Brian had any or not, “So what are yer plans for today” said Sandy, “Well we’d like to take a good look around the garden and the surrounding area now it’s light, for any signs” I said, as we didn’t want to destroy any evidence there might have been by walking around the garden in the dark last night, We were about to leave for the garden when James from Cable TV arrived, he wanted to meet us as he was very interested in unknown phenomena and the big cats that were out there, he was really friendly and keen to talk on our pet subject and others, I wouldn’t mind talking to him again sometime in the future. Later on there was another two arrivals from Yorkshire TV, a local news channel for Lincolnshire, they wanted to interview us regarding the sightings and our work whilst we were there, after talking for a good while and many more cups of tea, we eventually went outside for the interview that was to appear on: Calendar 19th November, 15.00 and 18.00hrs. The interviewing took up a good part of the day; precious daylight hours I thought, I didn’t wish to be interviewed due to a stammer as well as a total lack of confidence in front of TV cameras, though I did allow them to film me on site. But both Mark and I volunteered Brian for the interview, which he executed quite well, I was proud of him.

Whilst the Yorkshire crew were filming, we found some recently produced faeces placed on and within at least three separate mounds which had been partially flattened but still readable, within an approx 30” x 48” bold patch of the lawn, this was certainly from a large feline marking its territory and was filmed by Yorkshire TV. After the interview we took a drive around the area, looking for tracks etc but non were found, Sandy had told us that day that the cat was filmed as it sat on the mattress near to the rear of the caravan, this made all the difference as the mattress was at least a foot or more lower than the window, making the cat bigger than was first thought, I asked if we could put their cat Priscilla, in the caravan on the same mattress to give us some perspective of it’s size, this Julie agreed to as she was the only one who could handle her, as Julie took her and placed her cat on the mattress Priscilla seemed to disappear, all that could be seen was the top of her ears, I take it all back I thought it was a large cat all right.

12.30hrs?

A good place we were told of and visited was Green Lane, we looked down and around there but again there was no joy although it certainly seems to be the type of place you’d expect to see a large predator like a cat. Darkness soon fell around 16.00hrs. So we were quite fortunate to get done the things we did with everything happening that day.

22.00hrs?

Another friendly face we met towards the evening whilst working over there was Paul from BBCi Lincolnshire, a great guy very tall and a mountain of warmth, he interviewed Brian who we yet again volunteered as spokesperson, he can now be heard on the BBC Lincolnshire website.

Later on that evening after a drive around the area looking for a cat and some petrol we decided to call it night and I turned in, it's been a long couple o' days, so as I laid down on the airbed supported by several camping mats to insulate me from the cold and damp grounds surface, I automatically fell asleep, I myself hadn't slept properly since Saturday evening.

Wednesday 19th November

07.15hrs.

Brian excitedly shouts that we had only 15 minutes to go before we were to leave for Beesby Nr Alford, well I'd slept sound all night, we went into the house again for coffee, actually we were spoilt all the time we were there, our stay there was so enjoyable we overstayed our time that morning and were running a little late for our 08.00hrs appointment meeting the Couple in Beesby NR Alford, they kept some exotic animals in a private collection, including a Siberian Lynx called Moodlum and a Jungle Cat called Puma.

08.15hrs.

We arrived at our destination following Sandy and Julie there; they were going to visit relatives nearby. The couple who kept the animals Mark & Alison, were very pleasant indeed and let us look at their collection openly, and take photo’s of which by the way they assured us they do have the special licence required to keep dangerous wild animals, These animals were extremely well fed and cared for, with the cages also being in immaculate condition, clean as well as secure, despite the fact the cost of their upkeep was so high and only a couple running it, we were impressed and couldn’t fault their high maintenance values. Alison invited us in for tea, which on a cold morning we accepted with delight, Mark also does taxidermy in his spare time and had a very interesting collection to show us.

When we finally left, we headed for Alford town to see if we could find something suitable to purchase for Sandy and Julie, thanking them for having us there. We didn't have much joy, but whilst there we asked a few people if they had seen or heard of the mystery cat footage, not many people had, but we did meet someone there who'd witnessed seeing a kangaroo some 30 years or so ago now, near to Nottingham, so I'll be putting this on my website, if anyone is interested.

On our way back we rang Mark to ask if he was hungry as we intended to go to the chip shop and buy him some chips, “No” he said he’d already eaten, Julie had just fried him a full breakfast, I was gutted, but when we got back there was the same waiting for us. After the meal we went outside to look for tracks in the adjoining field. But no cat prints were found, only Deer, Squirrel Rabbit and Dog, there’s plenty of Rabbits to keep a big cat going for a long time, a fully grown Panther only requires about 4lbs of meat a day, that’s just two Rabbits.

21.00hrs.

Mark receives a phone call from an old acquaintance Terry Dye, another B.C.I. (Big Cat Investigator) he asked Mark to meet him and guide him in as he also was having problems finding us, No sooner gone than back again Mark brings Terry, this was my first time ever to meet, I’d heard of him in the past but didn’t know what to expect, he seemed a decent enough kinda chap, strong grip too I might add, we took and introduced him to Sandy and Julie, he also had the run down from Sandy of his encounter and was also shown the video footage we wasn’t complaining we enjoyed seeing it again. Later yes you guessed it we all went outside and Terry was shown the caravan, we also pointed out the three mounds with faeces. And the hide consisting of fishing umbrella and a full sized camo net which Brian and I had erected with a clear view of the caravan, it was all we could find to carry in the car with everything else, but it seemed to do the trick.

Things began to look up that night there were rustling noises and sounds of distressed bird calls wings flapping etc, all near by the caravan, we knew that something was there, was it the cat? We could only wait and see.

22.00hrs.

Around 22.00hrs there was a phone call at the Richardson’s someone who knew of Julie and her husbands sighting, said she had just seen the cat, it was a brief encounter but none the less an encounter all the same, the sighting was of a large black feline at the sewage works off Boston Road,

Armed with spotlights, two way radio’s and cameras, within approx half an hour of the encounter we’d finally reached the location, Mark and Terry who were in the 4x4 in front actually witnessed the cat as they turned round by the fields entrance.

I decided, and a bad decision it was too this time, to turn down the opposite side of the sewage works in case the cat had been spooked by the 4x4, which they had parked adjacent to the fields entrance which ran along the side of the sewage works and where the cat was seen, well the manoeuvre has worked before with other wildlife, but not this time.

The cat had apparently just sat there observing everything, this was Marks first sighting in all the years he’s been doing this kind of work, so I was pleased for him that he had eventually seen one, although sadly because of my decision to take the other end of the works Brian and I didn’t.

A short while later Brian and I, joined Mark and Terry over at the field, their was Mark up to his ankles in that clay substance which builds up around your feet the further you go, I’d gone so far down the field but hearing the cat had since gone I had no intentions of going any further, as I had to drive back and had no desire to the “moonwalk” my pedals.

Terry who has been doing this kind of work since 1985, almost a BCI Veteran reckons it may had been a jungle cat; these are a little bigger that your average moggie and a melanistic (black) form has been produced before, so it certainly shouldn’t be ruled out, Mark had described the animal as being the size of a Labrador dog this would also fit the description of a Jungle Cat, however there are one or two other species that could be taken into consideration here, the Kellas or Rabbit Headed Cat also fits the bill given by Mark and other witnesses, also we can’t afford to rule out the possibilities of if being a Hybrid, most large felines will interbreed with one another and this may have been the result.

Later Terry parted to return home and I myself felt torn between a warm comfortable bed and a night on my own in Lincolnshire, as Mark and Brian also had to leave because they had a long journey ahead of them. I couldn’t do a lot on my own,, so after three nights in Lincolnshire the bed won, but I’m really looking forward to our next venture.

Our hardest task was yet face come, to say our farewells to Sandy and Julie, who had been real diamonds during our stay there, we will always remember them and hopefully meet up with them again sometime in the near future.

Before leaving the area we decided to taste the wears of Wragby and to buy ourselves some chips, we could only find one shop, Mark a Yorkshire lad born and bred, began to show signs of homesickness when he asked the lady for patties, “Yer not in Yorkshire now lov, yer in Lincolnshire” she replied, in a rather rude and offensive manner, so much so Mark asked if their was another chip shop nearby, “the nearest one is about 10 miles away in Horncastle” she replied, so we left for Horncastle. When we eventually arrived in there, we found our chippy and enjoyed the delights of Horncastle's chips instead.

Well ...... you can't win um all.

I’d like to close this report thanking everyone we have met and assisted us whilst working over in Lincolnshire, if you could call it work, it was more of a pleasure really, our pleasure.

And a very special thanks to Sandy & Julie.

Thank you.

Chris Mullins

Beastwatch UK

www.beastwatch.co.uk

Footnote: Whilst writing this report, I’ve received an email saying that there was another sighting with some new footage taken in Horncastle the night we were there. This is a conformation report that the sighting Mark had was genuine, though I never doubted this for one moment.

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