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Escaped Tiger in Southampton Story Ends in Twist

24th May 2011

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A police hunt for an escaped white tiger stopped play at the Rose Bowl cricket ground on Saturday, evacuating the golf course at County Golf Club and sending members of the public fearing for their lives.

A member of the public contacted the police after spotting an escaped white tiger in a field close to junction seven of the M27 near Hedge End in Hampshire. The police quickly enlisted the help of animal specialists at nearby Marwell Zoo to offer advice and send a team with tranquiliser darts to overcome the tiger.

However the panic soon subsided when the tiger turned out to be a cuddly toy.

Police became suspicious when thermal-imaging cameras failed to register any heat from the target; they then realised that the beast was in fact a life-size stuffed animal when their helicopter swooped in and the ‘tiger’ blew over in the helicopter down draft.

Acting Chief Inspector Steve Wakeford of Hampshire Police said: "We received a call from passers-by who were convinced that there was a real tiger in the field.

"I was on the ground myself and it did look very realistic."

Although Acting Chief Inspector Steve Wakeford admits that the police officers did ‘have a laugh’ on realising their mistake, he added: "We had to take the report seriously. It is better to be safe than sorry."

A Hampshire Constabulary spokeswoman said: "Police are keen to reiterate that they have a duty to protect the public and therefore take calls of this nature as serious as any other calls reporting potential dangers to members of the public."

Hampshire Constabulary is now investigating whether the incident was a hoax and wants to trace the owner. It is unclear whether they still may be roaring with laughter over the incident.

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