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Lions, liars and bears

Thirty armed police and two helicopters were dispatched to track down an escaped lion in Essex. Except it was probably a large domestic cat.

Britain was transfixed by one big news story early this week. Was it a natural disaster, a major political scandal, a medical breakthrough of global importance? No, it was the reported sighting of a lion in Essex, an English county whose hitherto most famous feral beasts have been the cast of the tawdry "structured reality" TV show, The Only Way is Essex.

Thirty armed police and two helicopters were dispatched to a caravan park near the seaside resort of Clacton on Sunday when the alarm was raised, and social-networking sites went crazy with rumours and fake photographs. After 20 hours, police decided their informants had probably seen a large domestic cat, subsequently identified as "Teddy Bear".

Not everyone was convinced, however, with one park visitor saying: "It was one million per cent a lion. It was a tan colour with a big mane, it was fully grown, it was definitely a lion. It was just standing there, it seemed to be enjoying itself." That comment - and another description of the beast "ambling laconically" - should have been a giveaway that imaginations had run just a little wild over the holiday weekend.

It seems that even the Brits, who pride themselves on their "keep calm and carry on" attitude, can be sometimes be big scaredy cats.

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