THE Big Cat controversy took a bizarre twist this week with the revelation that a ‘panther’ spent a day in someone’s house.
The beast is believed to have sneaked into the home of Ivan and Gemma Sherlow when the door to their home was inadvertently left open.
It was at 3am that the couple were woken by their neighbour’s cat Timmy howling and staring in through a downstairs window.
Gemma shrieked as something large rushed past her and smashed into the exit door which then slammed shut.
Ivan said: “I thought it must be a fox, but my wife said it was too big and black in colour.”
While she locked herself in the bedroom, he sought out his shillelagh – a traditional Irish club – and investigated the house. He found nothing.
The security officer spent the following day as normal, picked up accountant Gemma from work and returned to their home in Fairways Close, Seaford, with children Simon, seven, and Lucy, five.
It was only when the house fell hushed at 11pm that Ivan heard a noise under his blanket-covered games table.
“Something black suddenly burst out and ran behind the curtains across the French doors,” he said. “I could see its shape moving – it was about 3ft high. Then a giant black head with green eyes came out of the side.”
Armed with a broom and his trusty shillelagh, and with Gemma screaming “Get it out! Get it out!”, Ivan managed to bundle the beast – crouched on its haunches – in the curtain and chivvied it to the door. It sprinted away into the darkness.
“We were both terrified and shaking for 90 minutes afterwards,” he said.
He called the police and later had a visit from Derek Bilston, of Sussex Big Cat Watch, who confirmed from his description that their house guest had been a black panther – about the size of a labrador with a long tail.
He collected fur from the Sherlow’s home which is currently being analysed.
Mr Bilston said: “Their house is very close to open countryside at Seaford Head.”
Now 4ins pawprints found outside the property are also being investigated.
Elsewhere, a woman walking her dog across a field at South Chailey has reported seeing an enormous jet black cat stretched out on the pathway. When the animal slinked off she found pawprints.
And a deer found dead on Ashdown Forest bore all the hallmarks of a big cat kill.