Published Monday, 27 August 2012
This picture of the mystery big cat has been confirmed by Essex Police as fake. (© Twitter)
Twitter was buzzing on Sunday night with suspected sightings and jokes about the Essex lion that practically wrote themselves (mostly about fur extensions, cougars and the cast of TOWIE).
The alarm was first raised at about 7pm on Sunday by holidaymakers who reported seeing "a lion sitting in a field" off Earls Hall Drive in St Osyth.
A massive search operation was launched by police and other agencies - including experts from Colchester Zoo who would be able to tranquilise the animal in the event of finding it.
But on Monday afternoon, they had decided to call time on the unsuccessful hunt.
"We believe what was seen on Sunday evening was either a large domestic cat or a wildcat," a spokesman for Essex Police said.
"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.
"We would like to thank the local community and holidaymakers for their patience and support throughout the past 24 hours, as the police and media presence would have been somewhat overwhelming for them."
It had been feared that a lion could have escaped from a circus where locals claimed to have seen such animals performing earlier this month.
The circus, which had moved on weeks before the drama unfolded, confirmed it was 100% certain no lions had escaped - primarily because it didn't have any lions.
With police confirming some of the big cat pictures circulating on Twitter were fakes and the hunt called off, the mystery over exactly what - if anything - the holidaymakers saw still remains.