Published: 17/01/2007 00:00 - Updated: 21/11/2011 21:31

Big cat encounter shocks walker

A BIG black panther-like animal has been seen only yards from the edge of Banff. It was spotted on the prowl in broad daylight above the Links, terrifying a holiday visitor who was out for an afternoon stroll. And at least one nearby resident has also seen a big cat at close hand. The creature is described as being five feet long and three feet high. It walked across the path of the man who was staying at the Banff Springs Hotel over the holiday period as he was out for a walk near the hotel on Hogmanay. The mystery animal walked about 10 feet in front of him as he ambled down the path that leads to the Banff Links. But Mike Smith (59), from Cove, who is a retail manager for Shell in Tullos, told "The Banffshire Journal" that although he was terrified at the time, he is now really glad that he had the experience and has revised his opinion on cat sightings. Staff at the hotel originally thought Mr Smith was havering when he told them his toe-curling tale, but he was so shook up, and talked about the experience so much, that they now think it must be true. He and his wife, Lorna, were in Banff for Hogmanay, and at noon he went out for a walk by himself. He said: "We were up to Banff Springs for four days over the New Year. "I walked down across from the Banff Springs where there's a path you walk down to the bottom. It was a lovely day and I just turned around and lo and behold out of one side of the bushes there was just a massive, massive, black cat. It was incredible, I was terrified. I can assure you I saw it when I was quite sober. "I'm glad I saw it because I used to think 'what a lot of rubbish', but it does exist. It's not a big dog, it's a big, big cat with a big long tail. "I thought it had little wee bits of stripes on it but it could have been the sun. It crossed my path out of one bush and strolled into the next bush." Mr Smith said that the animal was three feet tall and five feet long. He added: "If I was to describe it I would say it was like a big black panther." In a petrified state, Mr Smith made it back up the path to the hotel. On the way back up he met a man with his daughter sitting on a bench, who noticed that he was shaken up. Mr Smith added: "He said, 'God, you look awful', and without me even saying it, he said 'I bet you saw a cat'." The man went on to tell Mr Smith that his brother, who owned a farm nearby, suspected a big cat of slaughtering some of his stock. And when he arrived back at the hotel he was so clearly shaken that the receptionist asked about his welfare. When he told his story the topic of conversation throughout the weekend was about his experience. One of the duty managers at the hotel, Maxine Davidson, said: "Nobody was with him and nobody could corroborate his story. You might pull somebody's leg, but this guy was going on about it for the whole day. "He had a camera with him and I asked, 'did you take a photo?', And he said, 'no, it just happened so quickly'. He was shocked. I did think there was some authenticity to his story. I think he went for a brandy later on in the day." Another nearby resident told the "Banffshire Journal" that he too was convinced that black cats were stalking the area. He said that there hadn't been any sightings recently, but he did believe there were cats in the vicinity. A cat crossed his path a few years ago in the early hours of the morning. He did not wish to be named. Mr Smith has also taken some stick at work because of the unusual encounter. But he believes it enhanced what was already a great break in Banff. He said: "It was a fantastic weekend. To be honest, a lot of the fun at the end of it was because of the experience. It was incredible." Have you spotted a big cat in the area? The "Banffshire Journal" would be interested to hear your experience. You can phone the paper on (01261) 812551 or e-mail: editor@banffshire-journal.co.uk duguid_k@spp-group.com

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