A shocked cabbie found dozens of huge paw prints after spotting what she believes was an eight-foot long black panther on the loose in a village.
Michelle Woodall, 49, told of her shock when she saw the big cat walking into woods on Sunday morning.
The mum-of-one said she had “absolutely no doubt” her sighting in Sible Hedingham, Essex, was genuine adding “I would stake my house on it”.
She said: “I was just doing my hair when I looked out of the window and saw a panther-like cat.
“It was walking along like it was in no rush, it certainly wasn’t frightened of anything.
“It was the walk that was so distinctive because obviously a dog, a cat, a fox move completely differently.
“At that point I thought, ‘go get your phone’ but I was mesmerised and stayed put at the window.
“Once you’ve seen it, it cannot be anything else – it just cannot and the pawprints are proof.”
She watched the feline take up to six strides before it disappeared into the woodland footpath by the River Colne.
The mum took her five-year-old Parson Russell Terrier, Gunner, to the spot it vanished and said: “As soon as we hit that path his nose went down, his tail went up and he dragged me along.
“I knew straight away there was something special and he took me about half a mile.
“We went just over a mile and the whole way down were pawprints.”
Her pictures of about two dozen pawprints with a diameter of about 10cm and non-retracted claws.
Ms Woodall said she came across them in every ten strides on the footpath to Sudbury, Suffolk.
She added: “I took a photo of a labrador’s pawprint and it was a third of the size of this cat – and it was a big labrador.
“We have wild deer and pheasants which are perfect prey for a panther.”
Ms Woodall believes Gunner lost the scent after it took them to a chicken farm which overlooked “acres and acres” of fields.
She said locals said they had seen the big cat in the village as well and had a “it’s been seen again attitude” when she told them of her sighting.
“This panther was jet black. It was light and I know what I saw as does every body else,” she said.
Two women from the village claimed they spotted a black panther on the loose in 2015.
Jenny Ward said her 16-year-old son Jason spotted what he thought was a “great black fox” 40ft behind her on a footpath on August 8.
Turning round, Mrs Ward locked eyes with a black cat “bigger than a golden retriever” which stared at the stunned pair before crouching and disappearing into woodland.
The path, which runs beside Mrs Ward’s house leads across the countryside where a black cat was spotted on the same day.
Ms Woodall handed the photos over to the Essex Wildlife Trust to be verified.
Biodiversity Co-ordinator Mark Iley said: “We have had big cat reports from this area before (and elsewhere in Essex).
“Although I’m a bit sceptical about big cat sightings, it’s always possible and I didn’t see what Michelle saw.
“Certainly, big cats could survive in our landscape, as there is plenty of food and they can be incredibly secretive.”
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