NEWSSHOPPER December 14th 2009:
A JOGGER was forced to run for his life after encountering the infamous Beast of Sydenham.
Father-of-four Roger Fleming, 40, was on a late night run with his puppy King on December 9 near Sydenham Hill station when a giant cat chased them through Dulwich Wood.
Mr Fleming believes the creature, which he says looked like a brown cheetah, was the Beast of Sydenham, seen several times in the area over the years.
The building services manager first saw the beast at the bottom of a path in the wood.
He said: “It was at least five or six feet long.
“I thought to myself ‘what the hell is this?’ That’s when the panic set in.
“It sat there, locked its eyes on to me, sat up and - boom - it started running towards us.”
Mr Fleming grabbed hold of his Staffordshire bull terrier and ran through the wood.
He said: “I looked over my shoulder and could see it still running at me.
“I was just thinking ‘please stop’. It was knackering and I was almost ready to give up.
“I was thinking ‘this is it - I think I’m going to die’.”
After realising the beast had given up the chase, Mr Fleming rushed home to Dulwich and read about other sightings on the News Shopper website.
He said: “When I got home I was almost in tears the adrenalin was pumping through me so fast.
“I swear an oath to God never to go to that same part at night again.
“There should be signs telling people to take some caution because they’re walking around willy-nilly.”
Neil Arnold, a researcher who runs KENT BIG CAT RESEARCH said the beast is believed to be a black leopard, the offspring of pets released into the wild.
He said: “He should have stood his ground, maintained eye contact and backed off slowly - but it’s easy to say that.
“People don’t need to panic because big cats won’t harm them.
“I do this full-time to let people know that these animals aren’t a threat.”