THE LID has been lifted on the Belper area’s own X-Files-style strange happenings after an investigation by the News.
Derbyshire Police has this week revealed the details of four separate 999 calls it has received in the past five years - where scared villagers had spotted panther-like creatures.
Founder of the Big Cat Society, which looks into the existence of the creatures in the British Isles, Danny Bamping, said Derbyshire and Amber Valley were a definite hotspot for sightings.
He said: “I have investigated quite a few in Derbyshire over the years, it is a bit of a hotspot. It is because there is a lot of cover there, a lot of forests and rivers – a lot of areas for these animals to thrive in really.”
Mr Bamping said there could be more than 16 species of big cat living in Britain.
He said the bodies of pumas, lynxes and jungle cats have all been found.
The most convincing evidence Mr Bamping said he had seen is the body of a large lynx found in Norfolk in 1991.
His society now has 3,000 members and regularly visit areas to conduct more research, if they get enough evidence.
“We have had plenty of solid evidence to prove their existence,” said Mr Bamping, “But not a lot of people know about that.”
In January of 2011, the News reported how Belper man Neil Green spotted what looked to be the remnants of a big cat attack on Wyver Lane in the town.
The carcass of a sheep looked to have been ripped apart when Mr Green spotted the remains.
The News has now sent the pictures of the suspected big cat encounter over to Mr Bamping for his expert opinion.
He said: “It looks to me as if the sheep carcass had been there for a while before it was discovered.
“It could really have been anything.
“But when you look at one of the wider shots of where it was killed and how it was killed, it is possible.
“There’s not many things that can do that. Maybe a fox or a savage dog.
“If the sheep had only just been killed there would be more evidence to tell that it was a cat kill.”
However at the time, Mr Green, 34, who spotted the carcass while walking his dog Toby was convinced.
“It looked like a lion attack,” he said. You can’t describe it any other way than a massive cat has attacked it. It looked like something from the Discovery Channel.”
In March, 2009, another dog walker discovered a giant paw print by Black Rocks in Cromford.
The marking measured four-inches and was discovered in open ground next to a public footpath.
The finder, Brian Smith, said at the time: “I’ve never seen anything like it before but I’ve heard people talking about big cats.
“I compared it to my dog’s paw print and it was much bigger.”
A paw print was also discovered in January of the same year. a three-inch wide print was spotted by Wirksworth farmer Peter Ward, of Barrel Farm, Millers Green.
He found the print on land near where he kept the cattle.
Mr Bamping said the two findings could be big cat paw prints as they are significantly larger than those of a dogs. The animals walk with their claws retracted, he added, and the two sightings do not describe the claws being imprinted.
l Have you spotted anything curious in and around Belper you just cannot explain?
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