THE mystery of the Padiham Panther has been re-ignited this week after a Hapton grandmother captured a black “beast” on film.
Amateur photographer Sheila McBeth spotted the shadowy creature stalking across fields near Hapton Moor and captured the images.
Experts have been called in to analyse the shots which could prove to be the most conclusive evidence yet of the existence of the mysterious predator.
Sheila, who lives in Simpson Street, Hapton, said: “I was absolutely gobsmacked. I thought ‘what the hell is that?’ I thought I was seeing things. I had never seen anything like this before. It looked like a panther.”
The grandmother, who has lived in Hapton for 13 years, grabbed a pair of binoculars and watched the creature creep through grassland at the back of her house.
“I followed it through the field with the binoculars and then took some pictures of it. It was too big to be a dog or a cat. It had a thick feline tail. I had heard of things like this down south on Bodmin Moor. I was told they call it the Padiham Panther. I had never heard of it. I sent pictures into the police and asked them what this was. They said it is the second sighting this week. They are looking into it.”
PC Ian Thompson, wildlife officer for Pennine Division, said: “They are interesting pictures. We do not know what it is yet. The pictures have been sent off to experts for proper analysis to assist in identifying what it is.
“We collate information for big cats to determine the validity of these sightings and liaise with other departments, such as DEFRA, to determine whether or not the evidence presented to us, like Sheila’s photos, are in fact an exotic big cat.”
Sightings of mysterious panther-like creatures have increased since the Dangerous Wild Animals Act of 1976 made it illegal to keep untamed pets.
PC Thompson said: “There have been a lot of sightings over the years. There were stories in Rossendale of people owning leopards and big cats in the 70s and whether they were released at the time.
“Our main concern is that are these animals a possible threat to the public. But unless there is a direct threat to people then we will just collect the information and monitor the situation.”