Report from Chris Smith
8 th March 1991, Grimsby, England: Four lions escaped during a Chipperfield circus performance and ran into a crowd of 100 parents with their children in Grimsby. One man was attacked and treated at a hospital.
Government accountability is the hot issue. Thanks to probing commons scrutiny in the past day or so, for instance, we know which Whitehall Ministers are responsible for 1) The Beast of Bodmin and other savage cats: 2) Dodgy old Ford Cortinas that pump out too much smoke.
Well past bedtime on Monday, MP's were found to be listening to the big cats, (Norfolk) debate. An East Anglian MP, Keith Simpson, (Con) described the rise in sightings of mysterious killer felines in rural Britain. Ewes, lambs and horses had been killed.
"Norfolk's big cat has to compete with he Fen tiger, the beast of Bodmin, the Durham puma, the Nottingham lion and the cougar of Cupar," said Mr. Simpson.
"Perhaps Old Shuck or Black Shuck, the mythical large dog which roamed our Norfolk landscape looking for his master in the 18th century, has returned to haunt its descendants. Perhaps it is farmers looking for compensation on a scale of the likes of which they have never seen. Perhaps our tourist industry in mid-Norfolk is looking for its equivalent of the Loch Ness Monster.
Sightings were not always the result of heavy drinking by Fenland rustlers. "The majority were reported by perfectly normal, rational members of the public". Something needed to be done - but by whom ?
Elliott Morley, that was who. Mr. Morley, an agricultural minister, recalled the time that three lions escaped from a circus in Grimsby and one man was savaged. "He ran to the car in which his wife was sitting but she refused to open the door. I am quite sure that was due to her fear and had nothing to do with any acrimony between her and her husband."
He continued: "It is impossible to say categorically that no big cats are living wild in Britain, so it is only right and proper that the ministry should continue to investigate serious claims of their existence."
© Daily Telegraph: 4 th February, 1998
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