Report from Chris Smith
In this latest case - which Mr. Cathcart has been following closely - a 90 lb sheep had been dragged across a field and devoured. The farmer, who has lost another two sheep in similar circumstances, is convinced a huge cat-like creature is preying on the flock.
For Mr. Cathcart, a former Northern Constabulary detective sergeant, the sighting was just the latest in a whole series he has investigated over the past 15 years, after the capture of a puma at Cannich in 1979. That beast is now stuffed and on display in Inverness Museum. At that time, Mr. Cathcart was tasked with staying on the trail of mystery beast sightings. And his interest in the matter didn't stop when he retired in 1985. Since then he has kept detailed records of reported encounters across the country, several of which have been in Inverness-shire.
With many credible eye-witnesses - gamekeepers, police officers and his own sons among them - he is convinced that a number of creatures, including possible panthers who may be breeding, do roam densely-wooded rural areas. He told the Courier: "It started in 1979 when a puma was caught in Cannich by farmer Ted Noble. I was in the police at the time and was tasked by the Chief Constable to look into it. The animal was taken to Kincraig Wildlife Park and was named Felicity. I was not able to establish where it had came from - but it was obvious the animal had been released from captivity at some time. The droppings analysed established that it had been feeding in the wild, although we dont know how long for."
"That was the start of the thing. The sightings really started to take off." There were more reports from Cannich and others at Garve, Ardersier and the Black Isle as well as in Argyllshire and further afield. All the beasts were spotted in areas of dense forest.
Further sightings were reported from at Drumnadrochit, Abriachan and Farr. The fact that a sighting was reported at Gairloch on the same day as one 70 miles away convinced him there was more than one creature roaming the woods.
While the majority of sightings feature large black animals, Mr. Cathcart says it is unlikely that they are all pumas. His preferred alternative is a panther. "It's still being looked at sceptically by a lot of people," he told the Courier, "but I've spoken to people who have been born and bred in the country - including gamekeepers - who know what they're talking about."
After 15 years on the trail, Mr. Cathcart would dearly love to be on hand when one of these mystery beasts is found, dead or alive.
"They have managed to elude capture, but I think it's just a matter of time until a dead one is found. A corpse would be proof positive and would put an end to the scepticism."
Having dealt with so many sightings, Mr. Cathcart sums it up thus: "They all can't be wrong."
30 th December 1994
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