Kettering man spots ‘panther’ prowling near woods

File picture of a black panther
File picture of a black panther

A Kettering man said he couldn’t believe his eyes after spotting what he believes was a panther in the north of the county.

Craig Smith, 46, was driving on the A43 near Fineshade on Mother’s Day morning (March 31) on the way to see his mum.

Craig Smith said the animal was definitely a panther.

Craig Smith said the animal was definitely a panther.

As he approached Fineshade Wood, he says he saw the animal to the left of the road near Wakerley Wood.

He said: “I was absolutely gobsmacked, it took me a couple of seconds to compute it.

“I’m quite knowledgable about big cats and it was definitely a panther. It wasn’t a domestic cat and it wasn’t anything else.

“Its tail was the blackest of blacks and was sweeping along the ground. It was a gorgeous animal and just prowling.”

Wakerley Wood.

Wakerley Wood.

As he was driving Craig couldn’t get a picture but said he slowed right down to have a look.

Craig is a fan of big cats and has hand-fed a tiger before.

He estimated the animal he saw, which was near a hedgerow in a farmer’s field, was about 4ft high.

He spoke to a friend who said he had a similar sighting near Corby last month.

Craig, a team leader who looks after Northamptonshire’s fire stations, said: “I just thought there was no way I was seeing things but I called a friend and he said had seen it near the tip in Corby about three weeks ago.”

Craig went back the following day to see if he could find paw prints but a farmer was spreading chemicals.

He said he will go back again but feels ‘privileged’ to have seen it.

The sighting is the latest in a long line of possible big cats seen in Northamptonshire.

In 2012 a couple spotted a big cat in the same woodlands with other sightings near Gretton.

There was also a sighting of a big cat in 2008 in Wellingborough.

And in 2004 there were six sightings across our area in just two weeks.