We own a holiday home right on the beach in Point Clear, just up the road from St Oysth. Last week the kids went down their with my Dad and have spent a week with him, having a great time. On Sunday, my wife and I drove down to Point Clear and spent the day with them, it was great fun and the kids were looking forward to a few more days with their granddad, I “checked in” on Facebook from my blackberry which is a bit unlike me, but I’ll mention it as it’s part of my story.
On the way home in the evening, we saw a helicopter flying above the town of St Oysth, there were people standing outside the pubs looking up at it, I didn’t think too much of it as I work on the 20th floor of an office in Central London, I see helicopters every day.
An hour or so after getting home, a comment pops up on my Facebook regarding me checking in at Point Clear, it was my Mum, who said something like “Hope you’re not still there, there’s a lion on the loose.”
Sorry, Mum, you what ? I was in St Oysth, not Kenya, we do not have wild lions in Essex.

My Mum is not normally a person who makes comments for fun on Facebook, it’s normally things like “hope you had a nice time, love you” and stuff like that, so it did make me scramble for Sky News to see what her Lion in Essex source was all about.

Sure enough, breaking news “Police search for Lion on the loose in Essex”. Great, we just left our kids at the mercy of a man-eater.
Of course, every normal person is sceptical of these stories, being brought up stories about UFOs, Loch Ness, George Michael being gay, you tend never to believe these things initially. Then there were the quotes from several sources, different people claimed to see the lion, one man was running up the road screaming “It’s a ****ing lion”, people said they’d hear a loud roar, the list of witnesses continued. I suddenly thought this must be true, after all, the police were taking it seriously.

People were saying Colchester Zoo had lions, they were counting them to see if any had escaped. This is of course ridiculous, Colchester Zoo has 3 lions, I’ve seen them, and if any of them ever escaped, the first sighting would not be in St Oysth, it’s miles away. If that did ever happen, the lion would not only be a super escape artist, but also a cat with a cunning disguise to slip past the thousands of visitors and then make his way up the Brightlingsea Road unnoticed.
Reports were also suggesting that the circus that visited Clacton two weeks ago maybe missing a lion. Another stupid idea. How the hell would a travelling circus not of missed a lion in the last 2 weeks, and how would it wander around after the rest of the circus left unnoticed for 2 weeks.
This leaves local residents who may be lion owners, or maybe someone who once owned a lion and didn’t want him anymore dumped him (or her) in a field kind of Paddington Bear style, perhaps there was a note around the lion’s neck saying “please look after me” ?

Even so, I still thought because of several eye witnesses, and ear witnesses if you included those who heard the roar, there must be something in it, as did the armed police.

I text my daughter Monday morning and said, “stay in bed, there’s a lion loose in St Osyth”. She didn’t know anything of it, and we joked maybe someone had seen us walking our Cavalier King Charles Spaniel the day before and mistook him for the king of the jungle.

The Essex Lion

By now, reports on the internet were that police were asking people to be vigalint and stay indoors, they said they’d studied photos and were confident that it was “a large cat”.
Sky News were showing interviews with people who very clearly claimed that they’d seen a lion from their caravan park. One couple said they watched it for 30 minutes. Why ? If I saw a lion at the end of the field, and I took photos, got my binoculars, was 100% sure it was a lion, I’d call the police immediately and say get down her NOW !

Instead, the lion vanished. The search continued for 24 hours. They found no lion, no lion poo, no lion paw prints, nothing to suggest lions were around the area. So the search was called off, quite rightfully.

It was, still is, an intriguing story. Papers are now suggesting it was a domestic cat called Teddy Bear who lived near the field it was spotted in. If that is true, then what the hell was happening with the eyes of so many witnesses, can you not tell, even from say 100 metres, the difference between Garfield and Simba ? Weird.

Here’s the blokey advice for the people involved… the Essex Police should ask all lion owners in Essex to check their cages, if anything is amiss then let the cops know.
Find the bloke who ran down the street screaming, he’s either seen something that made him poop his pants, or he’s one of the jokers behind a great (but expensive) joke.
Introduce the eye witnesses to the cat called Teddy Bear, get him to sit in the field where the photo was taken and ask the eye witnesses to stand where they were standing when they saw the lion. Take the photo again and see what the result it.
As for those that heard the lion’s roar (and one of them is Ben Cusack, a reporter for the Sun newspaper) well I don’t know what to suggest, maybe, just maybe, the Essex lion has evaded capture.