A FORMER soldier spotted what he believes to be a puma or panther after dropping his son off to play football in Buckley.

Steven Hughes was in Globe Way, adjacent to the football ground, when he saw a mysterious creature cross the road and disappear into the hedgerow.

The encounter happened at about 11am on Saturday, April 17.

Steven, who says his years of military service made him adept at scanning his surroundings and processing information, says he his convinced the animal was not a domestic cat, dog or fox.

Steven said: "I had just dropped my son off to play football at the Globe football ground Buckley. As I was standing at the rear of my vehicle about to open the boot of the car, I was looking around contemplating what a wonderful day it was and enjoying the scenery. That was when I noticed approximately 100 to 150 meters away what I immediately recognised as a creature that was not your usual domesticated cat - or dog."

He added: "My immediate thought was 'that looks like a black puma'. Its coat was black with a sheen, it was about the size of two big domestic cats, it had a tail just over half the length of its body, its walk and gait resembled no domestic cat I have ever come across. It crossed from left to right at the point I witnessed the creature, then it went into the field on the right side. I waited to see if anyone was there in the immediate area, no one appeared. I witnessed the creature for approximately three seconds."

He told the Leader: "I have seen something here. I know for a fact that it was not a cat, dog or fox. It was something that I've not seen before. It was double the size of a domestic cat - unless their is a beast of a domestic cat out there. A cat 150 metres away would not have looked that size.

"I wasn't close enough for it to be bothered by me. It didn't look over, it just carried on. It wasn't rushed, it just strolled across as if that was its natural route."

He joked that as a former solider he was "constantly scanning the horizon".

He added: "I drive a taxi on Friday, Saturday and Sunday night and I see a lot of animals - foxes, cats and badgers late at night. So when you see something moving differently it catches your attention."

Ironically, Steven was opening the car to take out his camera which he uses to take photographs and video of his son who plays in goal for the U16 squad.

But the creature had disappeared before he had a chance to photograph it.

However, he says he may return in the hope of getting conclusive photographic evidence.

Flintshire has been a hotspot for big cat sightings in recent months, with encounters reported in Mostyn, Pentre Halkyn, Pontybodkin, Mynydd Isa, and Talacre.

The sightings have been attributed to the "Puma of Pontybodkin". Some sightings and paw prints have turned out to be large domestic cats or dogs - but many remain unexplained.

And what the "Buckley Beast" really is remains to be seen.