The Surrey Puma 1964

1964 Saw the first appearance of the Surrey Puma. A man picking blackberries at Munstead, near Godalming, was confronted by a wild animal that spat at him. Its description fitted that of a puma and plaster casts of paw prints confirmed the belief that a big cat was in the area.

In the following weeks there were several sightings and findings remains of animals that had been mauled and partly devoured were found. Godalming police station even opened a special 'puma log book'. The last sighting attributed to this 'cat' was in August 1967, although there have been periodic sightings of large felines in the county since then.

Phil Miles: The Surrey Puma: In early September 1964 I attended a Divisional Parade (a thing of the past!) at the Borough Hall, Godalming. During the meeting PC Bill Cooper (a Divisional motorcyclist – another thing of the past!) entered and reported to the then Superintendent Ron Hagley that he had been to Stilemans Racing Stables, Busbridge, concerning some paw prints that had been found there.

As the Godalming Scenes of Crime Officer I was despatched to the scene, where I found a number of large paw marks running along a sandy track and disappearing in front of a fence at the end of the track. I made plaster casts of two of the paw marks and as I was washing them off in the stable yard some members of staff arrived.

Showing interest in what I was doing one of them said that 'old George' (can't remember his real name now) went picking blackberries a few days earlier during his lunch break. He soon returned looking pale faced and was obviously unnerved. He told them he had been picking berries and moved a bush aside to be confronted by a large cat like head which spat at him. He said he dropped the bowl of berries and ran as fast as he could, jumping a barbed wire fence in the process, catching his sleeve on it.

DI Cliff Aggar, who was then in attendance, went of to locate the spot where he found a bowl laying on its side on the ground and still containing blackberries. He also found strands of woollen fibre on a nearby barbed wire fence.

Some weeks previous to this incident I had been dusting for fingerprints at a burglary about a mile further along the road from Stilemans when the lady of the house remarked that whilst walking in nearby woods she had seen a puma up a tree. She was adamant that it was such an animal stating that she had travelled abroad widely with her husband, a military man, and had seen these animals on many occasions. Not wishing to offend I told her I would look into the matter, thinking no more of it until the appearance of the Stilemans paw marks.

There followed more reported sightings and a 'safari' was organised involving police, London Zoo and other experts. We all set off one morning being deployed in various likely spots. I was with DC Roy Stanford who had brought along golf club 'Just in case' as he put it. I noticed he also had some golf balls with him and no doubt the practice came in useful!

At the end of the day nothing had been caught but animal remains had been found bearing evidence of a puma kill i.e. jumping on the animals back and attacking the throat. Sightings continued to be reported but the Surrey Puma still remains a mystery 'til this day.

A book has been written on the subject by a local author Roman Golicz, published by Don Namor Press under ISBN 0-9547172-4-4.

Lionel Covey: The Surrey Puma was shot by the gamekeeper from Thornton's estate at Cutt Mill and buried there. In fact it was a Lurcher crossed Great Dane, which was believed to have been abandoned by gypsies after moving off the Hogs Back.

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