A NEW "big cat" sighting has been reported, seven years after we first covered the story of what has become known as the Beast of Ongar.

A large black animal has been seen in fields off Moreton Road, Ongar. There have also been reports of a deer and other animals being killed and a horse being attacked in the area in recent weeks.

Belinda Taylor's son, Adam, and his friend, Scott Prior, reported seeing the animal at Shelley Common.

Mrs Taylor told the Guardian: "It was a big black cat, bigger than a Labrador and it was seen going into the hedge. At first Adam thought it was a fox but Scott said it wasn't because it was black."

Mrs Taylor now believes a "big cat" could have been responsible for scratches on her horse.

"I just thought the other horses were bullying him and had pushed him into barbed wire, but thinking about it, it's too high up. He's had deep superficial scratches on one of his legs and round the quarter area near his tail."

Mrs Taylor, whose son's rabbits have been killed, has also been told of a deer that was found ripped apart in a ditch "with lumps of flesh all over the place".

The last previous sighting reported to the Guardian was in October 2003 when Stanford Rivers Parish Council clerk Kay Hayden saw a "big cat" in a field off Berwick Lane. The first sighting was seven years ago at Wood End, Beauchamp Roding, near Ongar.

Following that we covered sightings in the Norton Heath area and around Matching, and an attack at a house in Weald Bridge Road, North Weald, where four geese were killed. One of the carcasses was sent away for analysis resulting in pathologist Ranald Munro concluding that the goose had been killed by a lynx.

Later we reported how Don Gooding's car appeared to have been scratched and bitten by a "big cat" at his Roydon Hamlet home.