'BIG CAT WAS JUST FEET AWAY FROM ME IN THE WOODS'

A DOG mauled to death in Edlington Wood might have been the victim of Doncaster's 'big cat'.

Leon Daines, 21, believes he may have stood within yards of the feline three weeks ago.

The landscape gardener from Edlington was returning home with a friend through Edlington Wood when the pair became distracted on Tofield Road.

He said: "We were walking through the wood when we heard a very large noise. Usually when you hear humans walking over sticks they might crack a little bit. But this made a much bigger crunching noise.

"We didn't know what it was but it was walking up by the side of us in some brambles.

"My mate shouted 'squat down, squat down' but I started growling and the noise stopped. It lasted for about 10 seconds.

"I was very scared, we were both really panicky."

Mr Daines, who takes a keen interest in wildlife, has not returned to the wood since the incident.

A few years ago he caught a glimpse of two large cat's eyes while driving through the same area but rubbished the idea of a 'big cat'.

But now he is convinced there is something lurking in the wood - and that it could be linked to death of John Rushton's doberman cross breed reported in recently in the Free Press.

"There's a lot of pheasants in the wood and it could be living off them," he added.

"After hearing about the killer dogs one of my mates was on the phone saying how lucky we had been."

Last August Barbara and Russell Fearn, of Sheffield, told the Free Press how they spotted a 'big cat' in a tree in Bawtry during a shopping trip.

In 2005 there were three more 'big cat' sightings on Wheatley golf course, in Moorends and Clayton.

Mr Daines said: "I can't say for definite that it was a big cat we heard - I've never actually seen anything - but I'm certain there's something big in those woods."

Members of the public are urged to report sightings of big cats to police on 0114 2 20 20 20.