The search for the lion stalking the eerie grasslands of Essex County (the scene of one of P.D. James’s best murder mysteries) has been called off. Too bad. Nobody does Monty Python-style police stories like the Brits. (” … ‘Allo, ‘allo, ‘allo, What’s goin’ on ‘ere then?”) :
It all began when Mrs. Martin and her family were spending the weekend in their RV. Mrs. Martin was looking out the window at a bonfire with her binoculars when she saw a cat. A big cat.
“When the smoke cleared I could see this shape in the field, so I got the binoculars out. We had a look and it looked like a lion.”
They kept looking.
“One time it sat up and looked at us and we could see its ears twitching.”
Mrs. Wright had no doubt what they were all looking at.
“The moment I saw it, straight away I said ‘That looks like a lioness’,” she told the media about after they had alerted the police. “When the farmer came, he walked into the field and the lion got up and walked away into the next field.”
Soon an official came out to the RV with a mobile phone in hand.
“He asked if we could confirm to the police that we are witnessing a lion, or I would say a large cat, across the other side of the field. I took the phone … and spoke to the police and witnessed that ‘Yes, what the gentleman has just told you is definitely a very large animal, and possibly a lion, definitely a large cat.'”
Mr. Atkin (a hospital administrator who was also in the RV … must have been a large RV but check out the Monty Python episode with lots of English people in a phone booth) added that the lion was quite large – the length of two sheep “put together.”
As the news spread, children could soon be heard screaming “Daddy, is the lion going to get us?”
As police helicopters began to approach the area, people began to hear the lion “roaring”. As one vacationer described it:
“We were trying to work out what the roar was. It was not until my brother texted me 20 minutes later and said there’s a lion on the loose in your area that we realized what exactly it was. It was very, very loud. I’ve only heard what a lion sounds like on TV wildlife programs, but it was definitely that.”
Soon photographs began to show up. This one …
… quickly turned out to be a fabrication. And this is the one taken by Mr. and Mrs. Atkin:
Meanwhile, the Essex Lion had his own Twitter feed. Some excerpts and comments:
Police call off hunt for Essex lion. I feel Cheetah’d.
There’s a lion on the loose in Essex. Has he no pride?
I wonder if it’s gone shopping at the maul.
I’ve a few interview requests for @EssexLion. Don’t know what they expect.I’m not going to talk to a radio presenter pretending to be a lion.
From PA: “A spokesman said between two and six people claimed to have seen the big cat” … BETWEEN two and six?! They don’t know how many?!
Finally, the authorities decided that the lion in Mr. and Mrs. Atkin’s photo (above) looked remarkable like this large wild cat , who was apparently out in the field at the time Mr. and Mrs. Martin first spotted him:
This is, in fact, Teddy Bear, a big furry cuddly Maine Coon kitty, who regularly goes out in the evening and patrols his territory – right where the “lion” was first spotted. Ginny Murphy introduced him to the BBC:
And that, as the English children’s story books used to say, was the end of that.