1. ITV Report

Police hunt escaped lion in Essex

A lion at Edinburgh Zoo Photo: David Cheskin/PA Wire

Firearms officers and police helicopters have joined the hunt for a lion that is thought to be on the loose in Essex.

Residents have been told to stay indoors as search teams worked through the night to track down the large cat, which was spotted in a field by a member of the public yesterday.

Essex Police have enlisted the help of experts from Colchester Zoo who believe the sighting to be genuine after viewing a photograph of the animal taken by a local.

Two police helicopters using heat-seeking equipment have been involved in the hunt for the animal, while zoo workers said to be armed with tranquilliser guns have also joined armed officers.

The big cat was seen in fields off Earls Hall Drive in St Osyth, near Clacton, Essex, just before 7pm yesterday.

Police immediately issued a warning to residents to close all doors and stay inside as officers began a search near where the animal was spotted.

Police are trying to establish where the lion may have come from and have urged anyone who sees it to call 999.

A force spokeswoman confirmed the animal had not escaped from Colchester Zoo, as all its animals had been accounted for

There have been rumours that the big cat may have escaped from a circus that had been performing in the Essex area.

The Great British Circus was based at Clacton Airfield but its run in the area ended around a fortnight ago, according to a local events website.

Locals say the hunt for the lion is surreal.

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