Hatfield man's big cat prank fools national papers
PUBLISHED: 12:27 23 October 2018 | UPDATED: 13:58 23 October 2018
A Hatfield man's black panther prank was only supposed to wind up residents on Facebook, but "kind of got out of hand" after it hit the headlines of several national newspapers.
Joker Tom Pitt, 38, posted two blurry pictures of what appeared to be a black panther in a Hatfield community Facebook group yesterday.
The former Onslow St Audrey’s pupil captioned it: “Hi all.
“I was taking a walk around Hatfield Park yesterday and saw what looked like a big black cat in the distance.
“It was way too large to be a domestic cat!
“Does anyone know what this could be??”
Continuing the joke, Tom added: “This is no laughing matter.”
Residents commented about previous big cat sightings in Hertfordshire, but it wasn’t long before they realised it was a prank.
In fact, they managed to trace the pictures Tom had posted from a previous story in the media.
It seemed as though the joke was over, but then Tom was contacted by a reporter and this led to a number of national newspapers running the story.
Tom told the Welwyn Hatfield Times: “It was only meant to be a joke on Facebook but it kind of got out of hand.
“It’s very amusing.
“I spent all day on the phone yesterday giving nationals permission to run the story.”
In 2016 a Freedom of Information request revealed that nearly 30 big cat sightings in and near the Welwyn Hatfield borough were reported to the police over the previous five years.
On June 9, last year a “big black cat” was spotted on the Hatfield to St Albans cycle track by a jogger.
Again on July 7 of 2017, a man and his young daughter were convinced they saw a big black cat in Welwyn Garden City and described it as being the size of an adult Labrador.