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Published 21st June 2007 by

Legend has it that an ancient sabre tooth tiger is running free up the downs near Hackney Marsh. People say they have seen the Hackney Marsh Beast and that their dogs have been taken by it. It is said to be 4 foot tall with really long teeth.

More recent sightings have described the Hackney Marsh Beast to be more bear-like, rather than a big cat.

On 11 November 2008, the Walthamstow Guardian reported that a young man, fishing with his father and brother at Hollow Ponds saw a "strange dark figure. It was hunched over and I could see it had a really hairy back... It definitely looked like a bear."

A local park keeper, however, remained sure that it wasn't: "The biggest animals we've got in the woods are foxes."

The newspaper maintained the expected degree of scepticism, dubbing the creature Hackney Marsh Beast and running headlines reading "Is Bigfoot on the loose in the woods?" and comments along the lines of "keep taking the tablets".

What the newspapers failed to point out was that these were not the first 'bear' sightings in the area, nor would it be the last.

In 2012, Student Helen Murray spotted the beast whilst strolling through the woodland. Having a camera phone on her, she quickly snapped some pictures of the beast.

Raising fears over the identity of the animal, she reported the latest sighting to the newspaper.

What was the cause of all these reports?

Paul Winter-Hart, the former Kula Shaker drummer, saw the pictures in the paper and came forward with an explanation for the sightings - his beloved Newfoundland dog called Willow! Paul, his wife and their children regularly walk Willow near the River Lea - where Helen took her pictures.

The family's pet stands over 5ft tall when she is on her hind legs. But Helen remains unconvinced that the creature she saw was a Newfoundland.

She said: 'That dog is so cute. I am pretty sure it was not a dog as it was far too big and its build was not dog-like.'

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