Kent

Underriver tiger sculpture sparks armed police response

Tiger and armed police in the wood Image copyright Juliet Simpson
Image caption Officers discovered there was "no animal and no risk to the public"

Armed police and a helicopter were scrambled to reports of a tiger on the loose in the countryside - only to find the wild animal was a life-size model.

Officers responding to the call in Underriver, Kent, on Saturday were met by the sculpture's creator.

"I took them down to the sculpture where they all had a good laugh and took a lot of photographs," artist Juliet Simpson, 85, said.

Kent Police said it found there was "no animal and no risk to the public".

Told by a neighbour that police were investigating reports of a loose big cat, Mrs Simpson set off up the lane near her home.

"Out of the field opposite came a whole crowd of armed police, who by then knew that it was all a false alarm and I said 'would they like to be introduced to my real live tiger?'" she told BBC Radio Kent.

"It looks quite real, it's meant to look real and it is about 30 metres from the footpath so you can't see it very closely."

Image copyright Juliet Simpson
Image caption The sculpture was placed in woodland more than 20 years ago

The wire and resin artwork has been in place in woodlands near a public path for at least 20 years and is now "rather dilapidated", she said.

"When I put this one in the wood behind my house, he seemed to sort of own the wood, so I never sold him, so he's just sat there."

Kent Police said officers were sent to Mote Road in Ightham, near Underriver, "following a report from a member of the public that a large wild cat had been seen in the area".

"Officers, including armed officers, attended as a precaution and, following a search of the area, have established there was no animal and no risk to the public."

A helicopter from the National Police Air Service also briefly attended.

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