Cotswold driver surprised by big cat with C3PO eyes crashing through trees

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A delivery driver who was about to start his rounds early one morning heard crashing through the trees as he walked to his van. When he shone his torch on the area where the sound was coming from, he encountered “large disc-shaped yellow eyes” in the thick of the trees.

The sighting happened around three weeks ago in the village of King’s Stanley, near Stroud at 4am. The witness says the animal was far too big to be a house cat and he saw the creature just 30 meters away.

Mark from Stonehouse said: ‘I start my rounds around 4am and the vans are parked at the bottom of the lane from where the bakery is. As usual, I arrived at work and picked up my van.

Read more: Big stocky ‘lynx’ cat seen in Gloucestershire waiting to ‘crush’ muntjac deer

“I heard a loud crash to my right, and it sounded like something had fallen out of a tree. I pointed my torch in the direction the noise was coming from.

“Then I saw the glowing yellow eye of an animal. The eyes were about two inches in diameter

“The torch I use is quite powerful, but I only saw the eyes. I didn’t see the body, just the eyes.

Read more: A man’s big cat encounters a caracal as the two stared at each other from three feet apart

“As I moved my torch, the eyes followed me. For a moment the animal’s head turned to the left and you could see the trace of yellow as the eyes moved.

Mark couldn’t take his phone out of his pocket to take a photo. He wasn’t ready to take the risk of taking his eyes off the creature in front of him.

He said: “There are several reasons why I didn’t take my phone out of my pocket. I was holding my torch in one hand and drinking a cup of coffee in the other.

“I wasn’t going to take my torch off the animal. He wasn’t a house cat, and dogs don’t climb trees any more than badgers.

“The brilliance of the yellow’s eyes suggests it was a big cat what I saw. I have traveled India and tracked animals in the past.

“I know the felines attack stealthily unless they are backed into a corner. I stayed calm and continued to face him and my torch on it. Then I walked slowly towards the van.

“I’m pretty sure it was a big cat because nothing else in nature has eyes like that. It reminded me of the Star Wars scene where C3PO was being re-enacted and when he opens his eyes, they are two big yellow discs and it’s like what I had seen.

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Mark contacted Frank Tunbridge about the sighting. He knew that there had been discussions over the years about the presence of big cats in and around the village.

Mr Tunbridge, 74, from Podsmead, is a wildlife enthusiast and has studied big cats and other animals for over 50 years. He is convinced that Mark saw a big cat that morning.

He said: ‘This case was brought to my attention recently. When he aimed his torch in that direction, he caught a pair of bright yellow eyes in the beam.

“He then realized it was probably one of those big cats he had heard of, and he hurried back to the safety of his van.

“My theory about these silent, elusive big cats is that the vast majority of them are what they say on the box. They are big cats, but hybrid animals, naturalized in the UK.

“In many cases they are now breeding true to type from a hodgepodge of released and escaped exotic felines. Many of the big cats have puma and leopard DNA in their mix.

“They are similar in appearance in many ways to these two species. The number of sightings of animals like this have increased dramatically since the Dangerous Animals Act was introduced in 1976.

“It was the time when many people were said to have left captive big cats in the British countryside to fend for themselves. Of course, as we all know, cats are superlatives, as are predators, the very essence of perfection in the art of surviving in wild and less wild places.

Anyone who has witnessed a British big cat sighting or found related evidence is asked to send a confidential email to Mr Tunbridge at [email protected]

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