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This photograph showing a large black cat could be the best ever evidence that a British Big Cat species exists, according to a leading expert.

The picture was taken by electrician Paul Keehn, 35, on his mobile phone camera after he spotted the creature sitting by a fence near to residential homes backing onto woodland and fields.

Mr Keehn took the photograph and then ran inside flats where he was working to tell the landlord but by the time the pair came back the panther-sized animal had disappeared.

Britain's leading big cat expert Di Francis, who wrote Cat Country:The Quest for the British Big Cat, said: 'If this photo is genuine it is the best ever photo of a British Big Cat taken in Britain.

'It's a photograph that would be hard to disprove. I would prefer to have seen another photo of it to see that there's some movement to be sure.

'The appearance of the animal would appear to be correct for the characteristics of a British Big Cat. It's outline matches up with the evidence I have collected over the years.

'I think there is an indigenous species of Big Cat to Britain that is unknown to science. I think these Big Cats are prehistoric survivors that are so clever they have kept out of humans' way.

'As we encroach on the countryside it is inevitable we come into contact with them more.'

Miss Francis, 65, said that the white flash on the front of its body would prove that the photographed cat could not be a panther and pointed to it being an indigenous species.

She added: 'I have a similar photo of a Big Cat with a white flash and several witness statements I've received over the years have described the cats as a having white flashes on different parts of their body.

'The white flash also suggests it's not a stuffed toy because, as far as I'm aware, manufacturers are unable to produce these toys with a white patch.'

Father-of-two Mr Keehn took the photo on March 26 at New Denham, near Uxbridge, Buckinghamshire.

He said: 'I was getting my tools out of my van when I saw a black object out of the corner of my eye.

'I was about 20 metres away and suddenly realised that it was massive cat. It didn't move at first and then turned its head.

'I took a photo of the cat and moved my van across the car park nearer the flat I was working in so I didn't have as far to walk in case it attacked me.

'When I went to get the bloke I was doing the work for I think he thought I was mad. By the time we came out it had gone.

'I really only took the photo to show my partner because I thought she wouldn~t believe me.

'I couldn't really believe what I was seeing at first. It was an amazing sight.'

Mr Keehn who lives with his partner Cheryl Knott, 28, and their two children in South Godestone, Surrey, estimates that the cat was about 1.5 metres long.

He said: 'It was a lot larger than your average cat. It had a huge head and looked like a panther to me.

'I didn't see it walk and I'm pretty glad it didn't run towards me because it'd obviously be a lot faster than me.

'I'm a bit gutted I didn't get a clearer picture but I didn't fancy getting any closer.

'I guess it must have gone into back into the wasteland or nearby woods.'

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