Search for Essex lion called off

Police have called off a widespread search for a lion reportedly on the loose and suggested the animal was more likely a large domestic cat or wildcat.

Officers spent almost 24 hours combing the countryside around Clacton-on-Sea, Essex, after a group of residents claimed to have seen the king of the jungle near Earls Hall Drive in St Osyth.

But after search teams found no evidence of the big cat, the force decided to stop looking.

An Essex Police spokesman said: "We believe what was seen on Sunday evening was either a large domestic cat or a wildcat.

"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."

The hunt got under way after holidaymakers contacted the police to say they had seen a big cat.

Denise Martin, 52, was the first to spot the suspected lion from the windows of her caravan on the site at Earls Hall Farm.

She was spending the Bank Holiday weekend at the site with her husband, Bob, 51, her brother, David Wright, 57, and his wife, Sue, 58.

Mrs Martin, a warehouse operative from Canvey Island, said she noticed a shape in a nearby field.

Police said they had to take the reports seriously because of their duty to protect public safety.