50. The Lioness Of Winchmore Hill
On Tuesday 22nd April I appeared on BBC London Radio with JoAnne Goode and Paul Ross to discuss mystery big cats around London, so what better way to celebrate reaching the fiftieth Saturday Strangeness installment than with another 'big cat' tale from the capital...
In the March of 1994 there were reports that a lioness was on the loose in North London and had been sighted by a Linda Bostock in broad daylight, who described the felid as having, "...short golden hair and big padded paws." Of course, the elusive cat never showed up despite calls flooding in to the local police switchboard – echoing reports from 20th January in the same year around the Northolt area of West London, where sightings of a puma-like cat took place near the station. A Robert Delane claimed the animal, "...was three-feet tall and four-feet long with a velvety biscuit-coloured coat."
Back at Winchmore Hill, residents jammed the police board with several sightings of the giant cat, which matched the same description of the Northolt prowler. More than thirty police officers swarmed upon the area and created more panic than what it was worth, as they paraded through the streets with megaphones warning parents to keep their children inside. Pets were also deemed at risk and pupils at the local schools were not allowed home until the matter was cleared up.
Of course, no lioness, or even a puma turned up. Despite a helicopter whirring in the skies over Palmers Green and marksmen from London Zoo lurking in the bushes with tranquiliser guns, the only thing that reared its head was the occasional domestic cat and a bull mastiff. There never was a lioness on the roam, but there most likely had been a puma, in fact there had been one for more than forty years, or certainly generations spawned from the original Surrey 'puma' which made its name in the '50s and '60s.
All the beast of Winchmore Hill did was prove how inadequte police investigations continue to be with regards to cat-flaps concerning mystery felids, and leaves us asking the question – who is the bigger threat, the puma or the police?
Image by alexstaubo on flickr