Strangely, this photo has appeared on various websites and yet clearly the website owners have no idea as to its origins. The photo was taken in 1998 by Harry Matthews who submitted it to Meridian News, and the photo eventually appeared on the front page of the Kent Today. Due to lack of knowledge the newspaper asked if the creature was the so-called 'beast of Blue Bell Hill', even though a) the animal was sighted on the other side of the river, b) the Blue Bell Hill animal is a black leopard, and the animal in the photo clearly isn't.
Mr Matthews, when interviewed on Meridian News did not state the animal was a 'big cat', but claimed he'd seen a similar one on the internet which he believed was an Italian wildcat. Immediately, the press had a field day but little did they realise how severely the image was distorted by undergrowth. Whilst the photo clearly shows a felid, the seemingly muscular shoulders are in fact undergrowth from the marsh behind it. A second photo also emerged showing the cat running away, and some believe the animal is simply a breed of domestic cat, whilst others claim the animal is a Jungle Cat/domestic hybrid. Whatever the cat is, it is not a black leopard, puma, etc, but it does remain an impressive photograph. Cooling Marshes would provide perfect cover and prey for an animal such as a Jungle Cat, or any cat which feed on rodents, small birds etc.