IS THE Beast of Bolton back?

There have been three separate sightsings of the mysterious black cat around Bolton.

Barbara Cooke is the latest person to claim she has seen a panther-like animal in Bolton — this time in a field in Bromley Cross.

Mrs Cooke, who works at Hollands Nurseries in Darwen Road, says she saw the beast in broad daylight on a piece of land behind the garden centre.

She said: “I was working in the polytunnel in the nursery part of the garden centre when I saw an animal leaping around in the tall grass.

“I managed to get a bit closer and I saw it was a big black cat, about the size of my golden retriever, not as stocky, but with a long tail.

“My dog shot out after it and the cat ran off into an enclosure with a 2.4m fence.

“By the time I got outside, it had gone.

“It must have climbed over the fence.”

Mrs Cooke, of Seaford Road, Harwood, told some friends about the sighting, which happened at about 2pm on Thursday, and word reached policeman Roger Clarke.

PC Clarke went to visit Mrs Cooke — off duty — after hearing the story because he too believes he has seen a big cat. His sighting was on a path under the A666 between Scholey Street, Burnden, and Arlen Road, The Haulgh, at about 4.30pm in April.

PC Clarke was cycling home from work when he says he saw a big cat run across the path in front of him.

He said: “It was a big black cat, about the size of a labrador, but sleek.

“I saw the end of it as it was running from right to left at incredible speed.

“It definitely wasn’t a dog — it looked like a leopard or a panther-type creature.

“It was big and heavy and made the noise of a heavy animal as it ran, with a twofoot tail.”

Meanwhile, Chris Wilson, aged 38, of Rose Lea, Harwood, says he saw a big black cat near the golf club in Longsight Park, Harwood, last September.

Carol Holden, of Rydal Road, Little Lever, has a large black tomcat which she believes may be mistaken for the Beast of Bolton.

But she insists her cat, Whiskers, which roams around Bolton, was definitely not in Bromley Cross on the afternoon when Mrs Cooke had her encounter.

Rumours of a panther-like cat in Bolton started four years ago, when two people spotted the beast in Darcy Lever.

The mystery was resurrected last year when two people claimed to see the beast within a month.

Walker Barry Calvert says he saw it near the Schoenstatt Shrine in Kearsley, and former policeman Peter Wood, of Poulton Avenue, Breightmet, says he saw the animal in Leverhulme Park.