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Sydenham Black Panther
In March 2005 a large black cat attacked a Sydenham resident named Anthony Holder. The story of the incident appeared in the Daily Mail on 23 March 2005 in an article (featured below) by Sam Greenhill entitled ‘The night I was mauled by London's 'black panther’
A suburb is living in fear after a man told how he was attacked by a 'black panther' in his back garden.
Tony Holder said he managed to fight off the snarling beast - which was trying to make a meal of the family's pet cat - as he struggled with it at 2am.
He was left with a six-inch scratch down one cheek, scratches on his arm and a wound to his finger.
Last night, there was confusion over what exactly had pounced on him in Sydenham, South London.
But Scotland Yard said an officer who was called to the scene by Mr Holder "thought he saw" a large cat-like animal, similar in size to a labrador dog. And police marksmen were later patrolling the area in cars.
The Yard also confirmed that in October 2002 there had been a similar sighting of a large black cat there.
Local householders were taking no chances. One resident, Debbie Mills, a 39-year-old mother of two, said: "It's got everyone worried. I've locked my three rabbits in the shed to keep them safe."
Police were telling schools to be on the lookout. And dog walkers were also being warned about the beast by wardens stationed at the entrances to Sydenham Wells Park. A park spokesman said: "We are acting on police and specialist advice following the alleged sighting. We have information that it retreated into the park."
Mr Holder, a former soldier, said he went outside his house at around 2am when he heard the family's tabby, Kitty Cat, crying in the garden and saw her pinned down by what he thought was a fox. "I went over to shoo it away - but it was not a fox. It jumped on me instead, knocking me over.
"I was terrified. I was staring into the whites of its eyes and it was growling and baring its teeth. It weighed a lot more than me - I'm 13 stone - and was at least 5ft long."
The ex-sergeant in the Gloucestershire Regiment added: "It tried to take a chunk out of my finger and it clawed at my face and my arm.
"I was scared it would kill me and my whole family. Eventually I managed to throw it off me, and it went and sat calmly in next door's garden, just looking at me.
"My only concern was protecting my wife and daughters. I ran inside, shut the door and called the RSPCA who told me to ring the police."
Mr Holder's 11-year-old daughter Ashleigh, who was watching from her bedroom window, said: "I saw my dad flying backwards and struggling with something. I was really scared. I didn't know what was happening."
Mr Holder said he went out to meet the police and was bundled into a van for his own safety. His wife Joy, 32, added: "Armed police turned up. We had the sniper squad in here and everything."
As Mr Holder was being treated by an ambulance crew in the street, he says he saw the beast again.
"It was strolling past the back of the ambulance as if it didn't have a care in the world."
Danny Bamping, of the Big Cats Society, said between 50 and 100 big cats are thought to be roaming free in Britain. "Mr Holder was lucky." he added. "It was either the world's biggest domestic cat, or a black panther.
"A black panther would normally go in the opposite direction to a human, but it might attack if it was surprised or felt threatened."
He said the creature had probably been kept as a pet and had escaped or been set free.