Friday 14 August 2009

Highland rock star big cat sighting

'Big cat' shock for rock singer

By Olivia Bell

Published: 13 August, 2009

THE lead singer of a Highland rock band claims he had a close encounter with a big cat coming back from the Belladrum Festival on Friday.

Colin Fraser, of indie band the Jyrojets, was in a car being driven by his girlfriend, Suzie Hamill, when he said a large, black animal crossed the road close to their car.

Dumbstruck Colin (26), of Culloden, Inverness, said he had always been sceptical of reports of such sightings. But he told the Highland News: "I am 100 per cent convinced it was a big cat. I've never seen anything like that before and neither had Suzie."

The singer said the cat, which had a long tail, crossed in front of them as they came round a corner on the Inverness side of Bunchrew about 11.15pm.After they slowed down and moved over to avoid hitting it, the animal then disappeared into the thin trees beside the Beauly Firth. Children's nursery assistant Suzie (30), of Dalneigh, said she was driving slowly because there were people walking back from the festival on the road.

"What I could see was a big, massive tail and the back end of what looked like a cat," she said. "It must have been the length of my Polo car and its tail was as thick as my arm.

"It did not run, it sort of skulked across the road and looked as if it had come from the woods there." Colin said it happened so quickly they couldn't get a photograph and it was too dark anyway. And he rejected any suggestion that it could have been a black Labrador or similar dog. "We've got a cat ourselves and I know there's a big difference between the two," he said. "It was right in front of us – I wouldn't like to guess at the size but it was massive – it wasn't your ordinary cat!

"The car behind us had to slow up as well and I am sure they must have seen it.

"Suzie was driving and for the rest of the journey we started muttering puma or panther."

Colin also denied that a touch too much of the festival "spirit" may have affected his judgement, as he had been visiting Belladrum's children's section with Suzie's eight-year-old son Lewis. Suzie added: "I was driving so I could not drink and Colin had only had a beer because we had Lewis. "When they got home they went got onto the internet and found there had been numerous sightings of big cats across Scotland.

The most recent last month was by an off-duty Ministry of Defence police dog handler who took a video of what he claims was a panther-sized big cat in Helensburgh, Argyll.

"Before this happened I thought it was a load of rubbish when I heard reports of people seeing big cats," said Colin. "But when I got home I was so convinced about what I'd seen I phoned most of the people in my directory to tell them about it.

"It would be good if anyone else could e-mail in or give more information if they have seen anything similar." * The Jyrojets made history by becoming the first band from Inverness ever to sign a major four-album record deal and have played at both RockNess and Belladrum. Their debut EP was released in 2006 and in 2007 they were chosen from 7,000 applicants to perform at the SXSW festival in Texas and were hailed by the San Francisco Chronicle as "the best kept secret at this year's South By Southwest".

They returned to the US for a two-month tour with BBC Britbus.

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