999 call to report Shipley ‘panther’

nrhn 080312 ''Beast spotted: Could Shipley Country Park be home to a big cat?
nrhn 080312 ''Beast spotted: Could Shipley Country Park be home to a big cat?

A SET of dog walkers made a panicked 999 call when they spotted a black ‘panther like’ cat on Shipley Country Park.

A distressed woman phoned police just after 2pm on Thursday, after her and two friends saw what they thought was a big cat prowling the grounds of the popular nature spot.

The group said they saw the creature, generally indigenous to South America, Asia and Africa, in a field near Holmsfield Drive in Heanor, close to a hedgerow.

Police say the caller, who was 600 yards away, described the supposed panther as ‘massive’ and ‘cat-shaped with a big tail’.

The woman added in her emergency call that it was ‘definitely not a dog or a domestic cat’ by the way it moved.

But manager of the Shipley Country Park visitor centre John Holmes is in no rush to send out a search party after the sighting.

He said: “We get them all the time – I have been manager here for 20 years and we have regularly had sightings of black panthers.

“I suspect it’s people seeing a black Labrador or something like that.

“I can’t help thinking that a huge panther-like creature could go undetected in the region – it’s a big black dog I reckon.

“None of the rangers here have ever a big cat on the park.

“We tend to take it with a pinch of salt, I’m sceptical to say the least.”

However it is not the first time there have been reports of such a creature in the grounds of the park.

Only a fortnight ago, Amber Valley Borough councillor for the Shipley Park, Horsley and Horsley Woodhouse ward Alex Stevenson, said he had a brief encounter with a green-eyed beast, while on a jog past Newmanley’s Road the around Eastwood side of the park.

He said: “As I was running past I heard this deep growling noise and I could just see these green eyes looking at me from the other side of the hedge – it was about waste height.

“I thought, well it can’t be, there’s a horse that always stands at the field there. I’m sure it would have attacked that if it had the chance, unless maybe it is just scavenging through bins?