Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Hampshire 'tiger sighting' causes major alert

A stuffed toy animal led to a large-scale police operation in Hampshire and stopped play at the Rose Bowl cricket ground.

The alarm was first raised by a concerned member of the public who believed there was an escaped white tiger hiding in a field near Hedge End.

Officers were sent to the scene along with a helicopter and thermal imaging cameras, at about 1600 BST on Saturday.

When no body heat was detected police moved in and found a cuddly toy tiger.

A police spokeswoman said officers had responded as if it was a real incident, close to junction seven of the M27.

Contingency plans were even put in place to close the motorway, but that proved unnecessary.

Police enlisted the help from animal experts at nearby Marwell Zoo, who offered advice and were prepared to send a team with tranquiliser darts to overcome the tiger.

The Rose Bowl said a game between South Wiltshire and Hampshire Academy was stopped for about 20 minutes before they were given the all clear to continue.

Golfers at a nearby golf course were also told to go indoors.

A police spokeswoman said: "After a brief stalk through the Hedge End savannah, the officer realised the tiger was not moving and the air support using their cameras realised there was a lack of heat source.

"The tiger then rolled over in the down draft and it was at that point it became obvious it was a stuffed life-size toy.

"This incident will definitely be the highlight of our day. The CCTV footage convinced us all we were dealing with a real tiger.

"It's not often an incident leaves our staff with a smile on their face and it just goes to show the diverse type of incident we are called to deal with."

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