Report from Reuel Chisholm
(The individual mentioned in the report below has been attempting to mislead newspapers and the public by passing himself off as a member of Scottish Big Cats. Withing a week he has described himself (correctly) as "Mark Fraser of the British Big Cats Society (Scotland)" and twice (falsely) as "Mark Fraser of Scottish Big Cats" and "Mark Fraser of the Scottish Big Cat Society". After five months as a member, Fraser left Scottish Big Cats in 2001.)
TWO enormous wild cats were spotted running through the grounds of a Melrose hotel on Sunday morning.
A shocked mother and her 10-year-old daughter were 20 yards from the terrifying beasts as one bolted through the grounds of the Waverley Castle Hotel into a clearing at 11.30 a.m.
The other creature stared at them for a matter of seconds before running towards a housing estate and into a field.
The 10-year-old girl was understandably shaken by the episode and remarked to her mother: "Animals must have escaped from a zoo!"
The first cat, which looked like a black leopard, was described as having a long thick "muscular tail" with back legs which seemed to come higher then the body when running.
However, the second cat, although not as big as the black cat, was fawn coloured with a pointed face and has left experts baffled as to what it may have been.
The witnesses stressed the length of the tails on both animals, as long as the bodies themselves, and the rippling shoulder movements at the front when they ran.
Mark Fraser, of the Scottish Big Cats Society, who has been investigating such sightings for 15 years, admits he is stumped as to what the second cat may have been.
He said: "I visited the area myself and searched the scene, but there were no unusual tracks to be found.
"The witnesses seemed to be genuine and the young girl who was present was very shaken over the incident and could not believe the large black animal was not in a zoo.
"I showed them pictures of wild cats and they both identified the black cat as a leopard.
"But they matched the white cat with a picture of a kellas cat, a cross between a wild cat and a domesticated one. These creatures are normally black and I have no idea why it would be with the other one.
"To be honest it has got me stumped."
The Borders countryside has become renowned for sightings of wild beasts such as the ones reported on Sunday.
Mr Fraser added: "The area is something of a hotspot for reports of these cats. Last year we had a lot of sightings of a big black cat on Gala Hill.
"This year alone we have had 77 reported sightings of wild cats and, while I donęt believe they are all leopards, it certainly adds to the mystery."
However, despite using the latest technology such as night-vision goggles, Mr Fraser has yet to see one of the creatures himself.
He joked: "Ięve been investigating these sightings for 15 years now and Ięve never seen one of them yet. Itęs very frustrating."
A spokeswoman for the Waverley Castle Hotel said: "Nobody knows anything about the sightings and it was not reported to us."
29 th July 2003
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