British police investigate 'lion sighting'
LONDON - Agence France-Presse
AFP PhotoBritish police said Monday they were investigating reports of a lion being spotted in a field near a seaside town in the eastern county of Essex.
Armed officers spent the night scouring the area, while a police helicopter with heat-seeking equipment was deployed to help find any trace of the animal, alongside experts armed with tranquiliser guns.
Officers were contacted shortly before 7pm (1800 GMT) on Sunday with a sighting by holidaymakers of the animal sitting in grassland in the village of St Oysth near Clacton-on-Sea.
Essex Police said their officers had been working with experts from a nearby zoo who believe the reports to be genuine after being shown a photograph from a member of the public.
A police spokesman said: "Public safety is our priority which is why we are taking the sighting and all associated evidence seriously.
"We have an increased police presence in the area which will offer reassurance to local residents, motorists and holidaymakers.
"For those who wish to take a walk in the countryside surrounding Clacton, then we would just ask them to be extra vigilant and cautious." The spokesman added that a member of the public had reported finding a large footprint or pugmark.
He said around a dozen officers were involved in the search.