Is this the infamous Norfolk panther prowling near Saxlingham Nethergate?

Is this the Norfolk panther? Picture Lee Norton

Is this the Norfolk panther? Picture Lee Norton - Credit: Lee Norton

For years there have been rumours that there is a black panther roaming the Norfolk countryside with police even receiving calls of possible sightings.

Is this the Norfolk panther? Picture Lee Norton

Is this the Norfolk panther? Picture Lee Norton - Credit: Lee Norton

And on Friday morning another sighting was added to the list when a man captured photos of a 'Labrador sized cat' prowling across fields in Saxlingham Nethergate.

Lee Norton, 36, was on the way to work in Norwich from his home in Long Stratton when what he believed to be a dog first caught his eye.

'I was driving through on my way to work and as you leave the village there is a quick left and then a right slightly up a hill with a gap which you can see across the fields through,' said Mr Norton. 'I had a look through the gap like you do and thought I saw someone a walking dog, about Labrador sized, but quickly saw that there was no-one walking it so I checked that no-one was behind me, hit the brakes and drove back.

Panther.

Panther. - Credit: EDP © 2000

'I had no idea what it was but it was the size of a Labrador but it had a very, very long tail.'

When Mr Norton finally made it to work he showed his colleagues the photographs he had taken and some of them mentioned to him the myth of the Norfolk panther.

'I had never heard of it before and we researched it online. I was quite shocked,' said Mr Norton.

Edingthorpe, near North WalshamShaun Baxter says he saw a large black cat / panther on sunday 5th Ap

Edingthorpe, near North WalshamShaun Baxter says he saw a large black cat / panther on sunday 5th AprilIt left claw marks on a nearby treeFor:EDPCopy:Vic Leggett - Credit: Colin Finch

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This was the latest in a long line of sightings where people have claimed to have seen some kind of big black cat in the county.

In 2013 Norfolk Police tweeted that they had reports of a panther prowling around near Martineau Lane in Norwich and in 2011 police were dispatched to a street in the city after it was reported a tiger was thought to be lying between two cars in the road.

This call followed a sighting in May 2010 of a 'very large striped cat' resembling a tiger sitting in the road in Bradwell in May 2010. Both 'tigers' turned out to be stuffed toys.

Is this the Norfolk panther? Picture Lee Norton

Is this the Norfolk panther? Picture Lee Norton - Credit: Lee Norton

And in 2009 a man out shooting rabbits between North Walsham and Edingthorpe said he saw a big black panther-like cat and later found scratches 4ft high on a tree, near to where he spotted the cat.

Despite being no proof of a panther on the loose in the county, or in other parts of the country, one theory is that several large species, such as panthers, leopards and lynx, were deliberately released into the wild by their owners in the 1970s after the introduction of the Dangerous Wild Animals Act, which placed restrictions on the keeping of certain species.

• Have you ever seen the Norfolk panther? Tweet us via @EDP24 and @EveningNews.

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