Beast of Ormiston: ‘Big cat’ caught on video

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A DOG-walker has sparked mystery after spotting a big cat “the size of an Alsatian” on the outskirts of an East ­Lothian village.

Barry Pearson captured footage of a creature running across a field and slinking into woods near the railway line between Ormiston and ­Elphinstone, East Lothian.

Barry Pearson was walking his dogs when he filmed what he says was a 'big cat'. Picture: contributed

Barry Pearson was walking his dogs when he filmed what he says was a 'big cat'. Picture: contributed

The 42-year-old – who first caught a glimpse when he noticed a herd of deer being “spooked” across the field – said he was certain the unidentified animal was “feline”.

He said the cat – which was mostly black with white markings – was the size of a fully-grown Alsatian.

Mr Pearson contacted the Evening News after showing the video to a few friends, who agreed that the animal could be an elusive big cat.

Monday’s sighting is the latest in a string of reports across the country over the years. In 2001, there was a similar sighting at nearby Limeylands Crescent, Ormiston, when Elaine Ainslie came “face-to-face” with a panther-like creature.

Mr Pearson, who runs an e-cigarette shop in Penicuik, had been walking his dogs Riley and Jules, a cross-breed and an Alsatian, on a “clear ­afternoon” when he spotted the creature. He said: “I know it was from a distance, but when I saw it sitting in the field it was definitely bigger than a household cat. Initially I thought it was a sheep dog, between the size of an Alsatian and a Collie. It definitely wasn’t scared of us – I think it was eyeing us up.”

He believes the deer, which had been initially startled by the movement of him and the two dogs walking along a fence by the field, were then prompted to run in the ­opposite direction by the feline predator lurking nearby.

“The deer obviously saw me and the dogs, and ran away from us first, and then it was the way they ran back, and turned. Then I saw the cat,” he said. It was off the beaten track, there were definitely no other dog walkers about.”

Ormiston community councillor Cathy Jess said she had not been aware of any recent sightings.

The elusive “big cat” has been the source of much ­debate over the years, with sightings up and down the country. While some are sceptical, it is believed that some of the creatures were let loose into the wild by their owners several decades ago.

It was legal and even fashionable in the 1960s and 1970s to keep exotic animals as pets in the UK, including leopards, pumas and panthers.

When the Dangerous Wild Animals Act was introduced in 1976, many owners gave their pets up to local zoos and wildlife parks, but a minority, worried their pets could be put down, set them free.

Many sightings say police

IN the last five years, police forces across Scotland admit they have received reports of more than 140 big cat sightings.

A panther in the Edinburgh area and a large creature with a tail “similar to a lion’s” were among the sightings in the Lothians. In June 2011, police said “a large black cat” was reported which “was believed to be the size of a Labrador dog with a long tail”.

And residents in Newhaven were convinced that a big cat was loose in January 2011 after spotting huge paw prints in the snow. They believed a puma or lynx had come in for food during the big freeze. A police helicopter team also spotted a big cat on Arthur’s Seat.