A PA claims a big cheetah-like cat seen roaming around the back gardens of the north London’s super-rich escaped eight months ago – and may even have savaged her kitten.
Two wealthy residents living in a mansion-lined road dubbed ‘Billionaire’s row’ in Hampstead told how armed police officers swooped on their properties on Monday night when the big cat was spotted.
Tea tycoon Nirmal Sethia, 78, said 20 officers descended on his sprawling property armed with machine guns and Tasers with a helicopter flying overhead when his neighbour spotted the cat while she was eating dinner in her back garden.
The beast – believed to be a Savannah, a cross between a domestic cat and a serval African wildcat – ran off and police decided it wasn’t a danger to the public.
Now Kate Blackmore, who lives in nearby Highgate, is convinced that this is the same cat that was reported to have frighted a mother-of-two in the area last September.
The ‘big cat’, pictured here, sparked panic when it was spotted prowling through gardens in the upmarket Hampstead neighbourhood on Monday evening. An armed police response unit was deployed after frightened residents raised the alarm
Ms Blackmore, 55, says she’s seen the cat ten times when its visited her back garden.
On one occasion she managed to film the beast who can be heard hissing, and opening its mouth to show off its sharp teeth.
Kate Blackmore, with the kitten she believes was killed by the cat, says it’s been terrorising the neighbourhood for eight months
In the clip she could be heard saying: ‘You stay away from my babies.’
Ms Blackmore says she is certain the Savannah had killed her Bengal kitten as well as three pigeons that were left in her garden.
‘This Savannah cat has been missing since September,’ she said.
‘Anyone saying it’s a recent escape is talking absolute rubbish.
‘We have had 10 visits from the Savannah cat. It scared one of my kittens away. That was three months ago, and the kitten didn’t come back.
‘Eight weeks later she was found dead on the road. I have been looking for the Savannah cat for months now. It’s terrorising the neighbourhood.’
Ms Blackmore said she put up 1,500 posters in the area and knocked on doors across Hampstead and Highgate in the hunt for her kitten.
When she heard a helicopter hovering overhead on Monday night, she initially thought it was police trying to track down a burglar, with raids on the area’s expensive homes not uncommon, before realising the search was in fact for the rare animal.
British-Indian billionaire Nirmal Sethia, 78, pictured left at the V&A Summer Party at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London last June, explained how armed police descended on his property (right) but the animal escaped from the huge garden last night
Police armed with machine guns and tasers arrived at the home of Mr Sethia, the 78-year-old Indian tycoon behind luxury brand Newby Tea, at about 9.30pm. His house, pictured, is in Winnington Road next to exclusive street The Bishop’s Avenue, dubbed ‘Billionaire’s Row’ in north London
The police confirmed that a response team was deployed and the cat is still on the loose
Bishops Avenue (pictured today) houses some of the wealthiest individuals in the country
‘Because of the Covid, everyone’s been so busy in their lives so they’ve not noticed it,’ she said.
Ms Blackmore put up 1,500 posters, offering a £1,000 reward when her kitten went missing earlier this year
‘Now it’s actually in their gardens, I’m not surprised it’s been spotted. I work from home so I’ve seen it a few times.’
Extremely rare first generation Savannah hybrids – known as ‘F1s’ – can sell for £5,000 and require a special license.
Second and third generations, while still extremely pricey and costing thousands, do not require a license and have gained popularity on social media platforms such as Instagram.
Savannah cats are characterised by their large bodies, long necks, triangular heads, and wide ears.
A first generation is a crossbreed with a domestic cat and a wild African Serval, but in each following generation the percentage of Serval in its genetics is reduced.
Police say the search was called off after making a ‘visual assessment’, saying it is not dangerous and not a threat to the public.
The cat’s owner has yet to step forward.
Ms Blackmore added: ‘I can’t believe the extent of it. All they need is a massive cage and some patience.
‘It’s not deadly or dangerous. I think it’s an F1, but I can’t be 100 per cent.
‘I’m really passionate about getting this cat re-homed. My husband and I are worried about the safety of my cats.
The animal on the loose is thought by an expert from Exmoor Zoo to be a Serval (pictured) which is an African wildcat and capable of killing domestic cats with ease
Pictures of the animal have circulated online in recent days but Ms Blackmore managed to get particularly close in a remarkable video
‘They’re really hyperactive and they will jump. The height they can jump is insane.
Other neighbours suggest it must be a pet belonging to someone on the road with some admitting they remain concerned and wouldn’t want their own animals crossing paths with the cat.
Hamstead Heath did not comment on the sighting this week, but a spokesman for the Met Police said: ‘We were called at approximately 9pm on Monday, 25 May to reports of a large cat seen in a garden in Winnington Road.
In the clip, the cat can be heard hissing, and is seen opening its mouth to show off its sharp teeth
‘I’m sure it’s having a field day living up the life of luxury. I’m surprised it’s not bigger than it is now.’
Savannah cats are characterised by their large bodies, long necks, triangular heads, and wide ears
‘Officers, including armed officers, attended the scene. An animal expert attended and visually assessed the cat.
‘Their conclusion was that the animal was a hybrid, namely a cross-breed of a domestic cat and a Savannah cat.
‘The expert opinion was that this animal was not dangerous and not a threat to the public.
‘In view of the information the containment was lifted and the cat made off from the garden.
‘The matter has been logged for intelligence purposes, no offences were disclosed.
‘Police have not been able to trace the cat’s owner at this time.’
An expert sourced by Kent Police found it to have a ‘very small percentage of Savannah’, and it posed no other danger than a house cat.