Essex 'lion': Spotter adamant 'big cat is out there'

Steve and Gill Atkin told BBC Essex: "That was no way a domestic cat"

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A couple who claimed to have seen an animal which looked like a lion in an Essex field have said they believe the creature is still at large.

A search for the "very large animal" seen near Earl Hall Drive in St Osyth, near Clacton-on-Sea, at about 19:00 BST on Sunday was called off on Monday.

Gill Atkin, on holiday in the village with her husband Steve, said: "I still don't think it was a domestic cat."

Ginny Murphy, of St Osyth, has claimed the animal is her pet cat, Teddy Bear.

Mr and Mrs Atkin, of Louth, Lincolnshire, photographed the animal on Sunday afternoon.

'Just sat there'

Mr Atkin had told police it was "definitely a very large animal, and possibly a lion, definitely a large cat".

He added: "We witnessed it, I would say, for about 20 to 30 minutes cleaning itself and rolling about in the field."

Mrs Atkin said: "The Mirror [newspaper] has made a bit of a farce of it this morning, saying it was a cat called Tom, but no, I don't think it was a domestic cat.

Steve and Gill Atkin Steve and Gill Atkin were staying at a caravan park in St Osyth

"Whatever it was, it's definitely still out there."

The first reported sighting was made by holidaymaker Bob Martin, who said he and his wife Denise saw a large cat and a lion "was the first thing that came to mind".

"We believe we saw a large cat looking at a tree... it just sat there looking at us," he said.

Police decided to call off the search on Monday after no trace of a big cat was found, and said the sightings were either of a large domestic cat or wildcat.

A spokesman added the incident was not being treated as a hoax.

Essex Police have not released any details of the cost of the search but have said about 25 officers were called to where the animal was seen, including specialist firearms officers and experts from Colchester Zoo.

Two police helicopters, one with thermal imaging equipment, were also used to try to detect any trace of an animal.

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