Report from Nick Wirsten
TERIDOM was gripped by 'panther fever' this week following several sightings of a large black cat in the Mansfield area of the town.
Workers at Jackson Tool Hire reported seeing a large black cat comparable to a Doberman or Boxer dog in size and stature shortly after 11am on Wednesday morning. The 'News' spoke to one of the witnesses who is adamant he saw a black panther or puma type creature. Nigel Colvin, assistant depot manager with Jackson Tool Hire who said: "I have no doubt we saw a large panther or puma. It was first spotted by two customers who were joined by three members of staff.
"We watched it for a while and then telephoned the police. I have a Doberman dog and it was about the same size as my dog. There's no mistake, this was a really big cat. It had a long thick tail and a huge bulky black body. It was a little unnerving at first but we're surrounded by a hugh fence topped with barbed wire."
PC Mark Rafferty, one of two police officers who attended the scene to investigate the sightings said: "We were informed that there was a large black panther in the wooded area behind the premises of a local tool hire company. When we arrived the witnesses were certain they had seen a large black panther-like cat.
"Just as another officer arrived with a camera the animal appeared from the woods and walked towards us. I managed to take a few photographs before it made off in the opposite direction. It then stopped to look back at us over its shoulder."
PC Rafferty attempted to close in on the animal but it made off back into the woods.
He added: "One of the officers viewed the animal with a pair of binoculars and says it may have been a large domestic cat but the witnesses are pretty sure of what they saw."
Asked to comment on the possibility of the animal being a large domestic cat, Mr Colvin added: "No way. This was not an everyday cat. It was the same size as a Doberman dog. None of us could beleive what we were seeing."
The 'News' has spoken to householders in the Branxholme area south of the town who have also spotted a large black feline.
Mrs Betty Shipley who lives at Branxholme Lodge spoke of her black cat experience, saying: "We were seeing some visitors off when we spotted a large black cat watching us about 20 feet from our house. It began to walk away but then stopped and continued to watch us.
"There was no mistaking it for a domestic cat. It was much too large and powerful.
A neighbour of Mrs Shipley's also reports seeing something strange towards the rear of her cottage. Mrs Jessie Robertson said: "I noticed some strange paw prints in my garden during the snow last March. They did not belong to a dog and I had just turned round to go back inside when a large black animal darted out in front of me and disappeared."
Hawick News, 2 nd November 2001
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