Report from Reuel Chisholm
In fact, the cat found near Peterhead was most probably a large domestic or feral cat, and while Mrs Doris Moore was almost certainly attacked by some kind of animal, it seems highly improbable that any species of felid was responsible.
The North-east has become Britain's unofficial big-cat capital.
Scores of sightings of panthers, pumas and lynx have been made from Macduff to the Mearns.
Wildlife experts believe that large, non-native cats are roaming our glens and forests.
And tourism chiefs hope the mystery beasts could prove to be a Nessie-style attraction for visitors.
In July, Kathleen Smith of Belhelvie came face-to-face with a puma-like beast.
She spotted the jet-black animal at Parkhill on her way to work at Aberdeen Airport.
In June, hillwalker Raymond Dougherty photographed a black Alsatian-sized feline near Braemar.
In January, accountant Denise McPhie encountered a 6ft long, mountain lion-like cat on the driveway of her Kintore home.
Last summer, a carcass of mystery big cat was found in a ditch near Peterhead. Baffled boffins believed it may have been a North-American bobcat.
Last February, school driver Doug Riley saw a black "Labrador-sized" feline walk in front of his bus near Kemnay. The creature left large prints in the snow.
In January 2002, Doris Moore was pounced on and bitten by a panther-like animal.
The Insch resident claimed the dark beast grabbed hold of her leg and bit her on the thigh.
She gouged the feline assailant several times with her car keys before it let go.
In 2001, farmers blamed the Beast of Bin for a series of sheep-slaying in the Huntly area. One 40-kilo ewe was dragged 100 metres across a field before being devoured and picked clean.
Scientists at the Scottish Agricultural College examined the carcass and concluded in a lab report that "a large, non-native cat" was responsible.
A spokesman for the Scottish Big Cat Society said sightings across Grampian had risen dramatically in recent years.
"No longer are you classed as belonging to the lunatic fringe in reporting such matters," he said.
Animal experts at the Royal Museum in Edinburgh also "refused to rule out" the idea of pockets of big cats being at large in the North-east.
Earlier this year Grampian Tourist Board marketing manager boss Charles Currie wanted to use the sightings to claw back visitors.
"It is a bit like the Loch Ness Monster," he said.
"People can come here and try to spot our big cats."
Most experts believe the raft of cat sightings stem from 70s legislation which outlawed the ownership of large, wild animals as pets.
It is believed dozens of exotic beasts were released into the wild and have thrived.
Aberdeen Evening Express, 4 th September 2003
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