Slaughtered Lambs & 'Cheshire Cats’.
By Lee Nicholson, 25th February, 2021.
The county of Cheshire is probably best known for the grinning cat popularised by Lewis Carroll in his famous book, ‘Alice in Wonderland’. During recent months however, there has been a series of attacks on livestock, combined with multiple reports of mysterious ‘big cat’ sightings. Could the two be connected?
On the 28th of December, 2020, the Cheshire standard online edition reported an "abhorrent attack" on livestock at a local farm.(1) The farm, located in Utkinton, had lost over 30 sheep between Christmas Eve and lunchtime Christmas day. Police were quoted as saying: "Only limited actual bloody attack wounds are present, indicating a dog/s have chased and worried the majority of the sheep to stressed and panicked exhaustion." An interesting comment, but despite the unusual timing, nothing to suggest this wasn’t just another sad case of 'sheep worrying' by dogs.
Then, on the 30th of December, another attack occurred this time in Peover, near Macclesfield, leaving six sheep dead. Four more were seriously injured and later unfortunately had to be euthanized. (2) Amazingly, Cheshire Police Rural Crime Team posted on their Facebook page that they were now looking for a "larger predator" and that there had been reports of a ‘big cat’ in the area. This post was later removed and had probably judged as too speculative by higher ups.
Big cats in the UK?
Officially there are no big cats native to the United Kingdom. Unofficially, though there are dozens of sightings reported every year to various organisations devoted to studying these elusive creatures. The popular theory is that exotic pets were released into the wild following legislation in 1976. Skeptics point out that the term 'black panther' actually refers to a rare melanistic leopard, a genetic condition which results from to much pigmentation. Many witnesses also cite a 'black Puma’, but this is also unlikely as Pumas, (also known as mountain lions and cougars) are actually dual toned meaning even a black, or melanistic variant would have a grey underbelly. According to one article on the topic, science has yet to confirm a genuine black puma specimen.(3)
Other researchers point out that these creatures are frequently seen at locations where paranormal events have occured, that they often appear and disappear without trace and, after all these years, hard evidence is still lacking. As I write this, investigator, Paul Sinclair, has just posted thermal imagery of a large animal on the East Coast. An area in which he has documented numerous UFO sightings, animal mutilations, cryptids, strange lights and a multitude of unusual phenomena. (4)
In what would become the first in a series of reported encounters, Puma Watch North Wales received a 'black panther' report from December, 13th, 2020.(5) The witness, a takeaway delivery driver, spotted the creature at 3:45pm near Chester Meadow and stopped on the A51, near Barrel Well Hill, to take a photograph.
Credit: Richard Evans/Puma watch.
The witness, Mr Richard Evans, 22, stated; "I spotted an enormous big cat across the river on the meadows. I pulled over to take a picture and tried to shout to a dog walker nearby but they couldn’t hear me. ... It was prowling along the edge of the long grass then disappeared into the undergrowth. It was absolutely massive though, like nothing I’ve ever seen.”
A closer look at the image above reveals that the ‘ big cat’ is indeed "massive". A key visual reference is provided by the dog walker and rudimentary analysis shows that the ‘ big cat’ is at least waist high to the dog walker, approx 90cm/1m.Which is the roughly the shoulder height of a lion or tiger. However, Google earth shows a distance of roughly 230 meters from photographer to subject. The ‘big cat’ is about 90 meters further out than our dog walker and therefore likely even bigger still! It should be noted that even the largest known cat, a Liger, (Lion/Tiger crossbreed) would generally only reach 6ft to ear tips.
The Sun took great pleasure in reporting that the 2nd attack of Dec 30th occurred on land owned by a Mr Alan Baskerville.(6) The idea of Police searching for a mystery predator and the landowner’s name, combined with images from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles were too much for the tabloid to resist. There was also a reference to; "circular, opposed to triangular bites", attributed to a gamekeeper, which were apparently suggestive of a cat not a dog. Events were soon to take a strange and sinister turn however and one which did not seem to involve any type of predator activity.
A twist in the tale.
On the 9th of January, 2021 the Winsford Guardian reported another attack, this time a pet sheep and two lambs were the victims.(7) A quote from Police suggested that they were no longer looking for a large predator: "There are some extremely unusual elements in the case & a thorough Investigation is currently underway to establish the full circumstances & to identify the Offender/s. . ."
Two key phrases here suggest something much more to this mystery than rampaging dogs or big cats. The terms "extremely unusual elements" and "Offender/s" strongly imply a human, or at least, an intelligent agency behind the attack. It is also worth noting that the three sheep targeted were together in a separate pen close to the house and regarded as pets. The rest of the flock were untouched.
At this point I felt that I could predict exactly what these "extremely unusual elements" were. I had been working quite closely with UK based animal mutilation investigation pioneer, David Cayton, since the discovery of a 'classic' calf mutilation in July, 2020.(8)
David’s work had uncovered a series of common injuries found in unusual animal deaths across the world. Jaw stripped to expose clean bone, bloodless cuts to remove ears, eyes, tail, rectal core and removal of sexual organs will be familiar to those who have seen the documentary; Silent Killers, 2009. (9) Also high on the M.O. list is a missing tongue, cleanly cut, either at the root, or frequently an angled cut near the tip and often bloodless. David Cayton had seen this numerous times and we had noted a missing tongue in the Todmorden Calf case.
On the 16th of January ITV News posted an article on the case with important new details. (10)
- According to the Police the attack took place "between 10pm-11pm on Thursday, January 7".
- "Police took swabs from the animals' mouths and discovered that their tongues had been cut out with a bladed article".
- In a separate report from Cheshire Live it states "They took swabs from the mouth of the sheep and found metal particles on their tongues." (11)
- It is thought all three animals had their necks broken and a "single set of footprints" was apparently also discovered in the snow.
Credit: Chesire Police Rural Crime Team. (The image above shows the three animals as discovered, note a distinct lack of blood and no signs of a disturbance.)
This new information also included the identity of the animal’s owners, so I reached out via social media to offer my sympathy and ask a few questions. They kindly responded and informed me that “no post mortem was conducted” due to expense. That otherwise the details reported were accurate and they had no more to add at this time, but were greatful for the message.
It is interesting to consider what prompted police to swab the mouths of these particular sheep. Were they looking for something they had seen before, or was it just routine? What were the "circular" injuries in other cases? It is a shame that a post mortem could not be conducted as these have in the past revealed some startling results.
In one case, investigated by the National Institute for Discovery Science (NIDS) in 1998, a cow was discovered with a surgically excised ear. Necropsy revealed an "exploded heart" still within the intact pericardium and a missing fetus with no signs that the animal had given birth. They also noted cleanly cut hair and a ‘blue gel’, analysis of which showed it to have both anesthetic and preservative type properties. (12)
Other Attacks and UFOs
Clearly examples such as those discovered by NIDS investigators could not be the result of natural predation, not even a ‘big cat’ such a leopard, jaguar or puma could cut hair.
We should mention here that unusual animal deaths have been directly associated with UFO sightings on many occasions both in the UK and overseas. With this in mind we searched local media and discovered that Cheshire had numerous reported UFO sightings in the past. (13) Most of these were from the MoD files, and none had any connection to the sheep attacks. We did find one more recent report of an object that was; “smaller than a car and silver/reflective. Definitely flat and a disc and not a balloon or a drone.” seen near Lache Lane, Chester on September, 24th, 2020. (14)
Research also revealed other attacks from earlier in the year. On the 8th December, 2020, Chester Live reported that “Two sheep had to be put down due to 'throat injuries' after being mauled by dogs.” in Mobberley. Along with another in Gawsthorpe that was “badly mauled around the neck.”(15)
There were also reports from August, 2020, but as with the above and without further information, these may be simply dog attacks. Still, 6th August, four sheep killed in Tattenhall. (16) 9th August, 6 sheep killed in Runcorn. (17)
More ‘big cats’
The ‘big cat’ sightings continued throughout January and February, some more compelling than others. Here is a quick summary:
- 5th January, Shropshire canal, Stoak, dusk. Witness captured video and states; "Not seen anything like this before, it looks like a fox from the back but when it turned around it was definitely a cat.” (Shape and colouring looks like a fox, tail in particular. )(18)
- 29th January, Witness hears a; “really deep growl” while walking her puppy in Chester Meadow. (19)
- 2nd February, Whitby Park, Ellesmere port. Witness sees an animal that was ;"bigger than my spaniel but short hair with a bushy tail and slender." (Sounds like a fox? No known big cat with bushy tail.) (20)
- 10th Feb, Upton, close to Chester Zoo. 2:30am. Witness states; “I was driving along and I saw a large cat at the side of the road near the hedgerow.”
Chester Zoo confirmed that the animal does not belong to them.(21)
- 22nd February, Flintshire. “Massive black cat” caught on film. Witness says; “it looked far too big to be a regular cat and was more like the size of a sheep or possibly bigger.”(22)
- What better way to finish this section that a Tiger? Yep, that’s right, back in 2011 Police received 999 call to report a Tiger, complete with long, ringed, black tipped tail! Where? Chester Meadow, of course!! (And yes, the zoo confirmed it wasn’t theirs.) (23)
Should earlier reports be reconsidered?
In light of these events you would think that the police might be reconsidering previous cases written down to 'sheep worrying' by dogs? Unfortunately this doesn’t seem to be happening. I heard from the animal owners in Winsford that Police had; “made a courtesy call to say the case was now closed."
In summary and as is so often the case, we are left with more questions than answers. Were some of the attacks caused by dogs? ‘big cats’? a deranged human? or something else entirely? Maybe a combination of the above? Or, perhaps Lewis Carroll’s famous 'Cheshire cat' has developed the ability to wield a knife....? Maybe not!
As things stand, there have been no more attacks on livestock since 9th January, though big cats have been reported, as noted above. In the meantime, we will file an FOI to Police in the hope of gaining further insight and perhaps a look at those mystery footprints. Until then and pending a post-lockdown visit to Cheshire, that’s all, for now!
9. Silent Killers, documentary: https://youtu.be/halJR2-FuYM