Some claim it is proof that big cats really do roam East Anglia.
But last night this photograph sparked the riddle of the Beccles lynx.
The photo, said to be of a Northern lynx killed near the town, sparked controversy after it appeared on a website for big cat enthusiasts.
The British Big Cats Society (BBCS) claims the 59 lb adult cat was blamed for killing 15 sheep in two weeks and was shot by a farmer near Beccles.
The group claims the photograph is genuine and, although the incident happened back in the summer of 1991, details have only just been revealed to the public.
But last night the town's police and its hunting community sought to cast doubt on the authenticity of the photograph.
Robert Tilney, who runs R Tilney and Son Gunsmiths in Beccles, said he believed the photograph was a fake.
He said: "I have talked to my shooting friends about this photograph and we are of the opinion it is a hoax.
"I think if a farmer around here had shot an animal like this then I would have heard about it at some point.
"The hunting community is quite close-knit and there would have been rumours. I am very sceptical."
Leon Crosson, a former sergeant at Beccles police station, said: "I was here around that time, but I cannot remember anything about a big cat being shot in the area. It is absolute news to me."
But Danny Bampling, founder of the BBCS, said: "One of our members knew about this. He was involved in a small way and took the pictures in 1991."
Mr Bampling stressed that neither the farmer, who allegedly shot the Lynx, nor the person who took the picture of the dead cat, wished to be identified for legal reasons.
"It is because it is such a grey area legally when it comes to shooting wild animals," he said.
"I have also had phone calls from the police and Home Office about this."
Mr Bampling said the body of the lynx was now in the hands of a local collector.
"After spending a short time in the farmer's freezer it was sold on to a local game dealer, who then had it stuffed and sold it to a local collector, who apparently now has it on display in his house," he said.
"I'm not surprised about the controversy, but at the end of the day we have researched the story and have been in contact with the people concerned.
They are very adamant that they do not want any details released," he said.
Norvie Barry, a gamekeeper from Reydon, near Southwold, said he also believed the photograph could be genuine.
"There have been a lot of rumours about this lynx. And although I am not completely sure who shot it, I am pretty sure it did happen," he said.
The news comes as the number of recorded sightings of pumas, panthers, and other wild beasts doubled last year to 1082, according to new figures from the BBCS, up from just 438 in 2001.
Eastern Daily Press, 23 rd January 2003
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