THE man behind the mysterious Charlbury ‘panther’ has revealed the true story of the beast which has prompted a number of recent big cat sightings.
Art collectors Philip Reid and David El Kabir have spoken for the first time about why they decided to put the black puma-like sculpture in their back garden eight years ago.
The beast has puzzled the public, with train commuters reporting seeing a big cat in the fields near the railway line.
The most recent sighting was by Isabel Oakeshott, political editor of The Sunday Times, who tweeted: “I just saw something very like a black panther in woods near Charlbury.”
But the creature is not a big cat. It’s a steel sculpture in a garden in Church Lane.
The Priory house and garden is owned by a trust led by Dr El Kabir, 87.
He is one of six people who live in the house.
The gardens are regularly opened to the public.
Dr El Kabir, 87, said: “It’s funny that it’s causing this commotion. People shouldn’t be scared of it.”
Dr Reid, 49, added: “It’s quite fun. We wanted to put it in an area that would catch people’s eyes.”
Charlbury resident Darren Taylor, 41, said: “You can see it as you pull out of the station. It’s quite big and there’s quite deep foliage around there.
“The first time I saw it I did think, ‘God, what was that’ but most people who take the train regularly know about it and don’t get surprised any more.”
Dr El Kabir is the chairman of Wytham Hall, a shelter for people who are homeless in London.
Dr Reid, a GP, said: “We’ve cleared the area so people can probably see it better now.”
The black sculpture was made by artist Simon Lea, from Milton-under-Wychwood.
It was inspired by two sightings of the original creature, also called the Beast of Burford, about 14 years ago.
Mr Lea, a builder, said: “I was walking through woods and suddenly I was aware of something.
“It was enormous – so quick. It crossed the path and walked through the trees in seconds.”
Mr Lea, 54, claims to have later seen it in his barn and used it as inspiration for a statue.
Police still receive up to one report a month of the ‘Charlbury panther’ – not all from passengers on the railway line.
PAST PANTHER REPORTS
- 2000: Villagers report seeing a big cat roaming the countryside near Wantage. Police warn people not to approach the animal.
- 2005: The Cotswold Wildlife Park offers a £5,000 reward for the capture of a big cat dubbed the ‘Beast of Burford’.
- 2005: Michael Lloyd of Kidlington spots a black cat between Yarnton and the Hanboroughs while out on his quad bike. Businessman George Gasiorowski had spotted a black cat in the same area as Mr Lloyd a few months previously.
- 2006: Following an appeal by the Oxford Mail, dozens of people get in contact to reveal their sightings.
- 2007: Oxfordshire Big Cat Research urges witnesses to come forward.
- 2007: Pc Simon Towers says he found 300 metres of paw prints, confirmed as being from a puma by a big cat expert, in West Oxfordshire, although he refuses to say exactly where.
- 2010: Rebecca Lowe, from Abingdon, sees a big cat crossing the A34, near Lodge Hill.