'Lion' scare causes furor in Britain
Police called off a high-profile search for what witnesses had said was a mysterious lion that appeared, apparently out of nowhere.
Tue, Aug 28 2012 at 3:28 AM
At least two parody Twitter accounts for the lion sprang up Monday under the handles @EssexLion and @TheEssexLion. (Photo: AFP)
British police have called off a high-profile search for what witnesses had said was a mysterious lion that appeared, apparently out of nowhere, in an Essex field.
Authorities on Sunday deployed firearms officers, a helicopter, and heat-seeking technology following reports of a cat-like beast roaming in a field in Essex, near London.
The hunt for the creature — which witnesses had said appeared to be a lion — sparked a slew of media coverage as it continued on the Monday bank holiday.
Police said they were taking the search for the so-called lion seriously, but many saw the lighter side, with jokes, spoof images and fake Twitter accounts circulating the internet.
At 2p.m. BST Monday police ended the search after finding no trace of the big cat. A police spokesman said: "We believe what was seen on Sunday evening was either a large domestic cat or a wildcat.
"Extensive searches have been carried out, areas examined and witnesses spoken to; yet nothing has been found to suggest that a lion was in the area."
Officers from Essex Police had been working with experts from Colchester Zoo who initially believed the reports to be genuine after being shown a photograph from a member of the public.
A spokesman said between two and six people claimed to have seen the big cat but there had been no further sightings since Sunday evening.
Earlier, a police statement said: "Public safety is our priority which is why we are taking the sighting and all associated evidence seriously."
No definitive explanation for mysterious sightings has been given.
Throughout the hunt, mystery surrounded where the lion might have come from. Police ruled out Colchester Zoo as all its animals were accounted for. A circus based near Clacton-on-Sea early in August said it did not keep any lions.
Che Kevlin said he heard what he believed to be a roar whilst out walking his dog Sunday night.
"I heard a loud roar at 10pm. It sounded like a lion," he told the BBC.
"It was worrying as we had just been for a walk with the dog. We saw the police helicopter but thought it was just searching for a person.
"It sounded like the roar of a lion. We have a field and wood just behind our fence, so you never know."
At least two parody Twitter accounts for the lion sprang up Monday under the handles @EssexLion ("Roar bruv, I'm a lion, ain't I?") and @TheEssexLion ("in your garden").
Elsewhere on Twitter, many were joking about the lion being let loose on the cast of popular British reality show, The Only Way Is Essex.
Some laughingly claimed that, due to the lion's apparent ability to appear out of nowhere before disappearing again, it must be Aslan, the deity from The Chronicles of Narnia, the series of children's novels penned by C.S. Lewis. London Times columnist Caitlin Moran wrote on Twitter: "*thinks* IT'S ASLAN RETURNING FROM A FESTIVAL! IT'S ASLAN! IT'S ASLAN!"
Other users claimed the lion had taken refuge in the Ecuadoran embassy in London, where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has claimed asylum. David Schneider wrote under the handle @davidschneider: "This is getting interesting. The Essex Lion has just taken refuge in the Ecuadorian (sic) embassy."
Copyright 2012 AFP Global Edition