Armed police on the edge of Hampstead Heath was rushed to a “billionaire’s row” last night after residents of the exclusive outpost reported a “big cat” on the loose.
One resident told how, when the cat showed up from the bushes, she and her daughter fled their garden, and called the police.
She said: “I was sitting having dinner with my daughter in the garden when the head appeared. It looked normal, so I didn’t take much notice, but then the body came out.
“It was elongated, really too big for a domestic pet. The markings were like that of a cheetah or leopard.
“We were frightened. I said to myself ‘we should not be here’ and went into the house. I took a photograph on the way; it was terrifying.
“We called the police, and armed officers began the search for the animal. They told us to remain inside. There were two helicopters overhead. It was very dramatic. I can understand it. At that stage, they had to believe it was a dangerous wildcat.”
She said that officers later told her that the animal was a domestic pet owned by a resident on The Bishops Avenue.
She added: “The police said they have still not found it but confirmed it was a lost domestic pet. That animal looked like no pet I have seen.”
An expert attending Winnington Road with officers spotted the “cheetah-like” creature before it disappeared into the bush.
The police confirmed that an armed unit was dispatched because of concerns about the potential danger to life. They were stood down when it was established that the cat was a family pet.
It was thought to be a Savannah, a cross between a cat and an African serval, which can be lawfully owned and is not seen as dangerous.
Resident Leon Grant added: “It was pandemonium. There was a police helicopter whirring overhead and armed police and all sorts. It was being dealt with as a huge incident.”