Walking around her previous neighbourhood of Newtown in inner city Sydney, the scariest thing Sara Joyce might see was a hipster with a mean neck tattoo and a bushranger beard.
But the 40-year-old had a close encounter with something far more disturbing last Wednesday, just one month after moving to the Blue Mountains.
She said she was stalked by a giant cat while bushwalking near Martin’s Lookout in Springwood on April 26.
“About 2 o’clock I saw a huge black body with a huge black tail jumping over into the bush towards me.
“I started seeing it in the bush – the body of it, I never saw its face – and I thought ‘this thing is stalking me’… It was jumping ahead of me on either side, about 10 metres away, until I didn’t see it anymore.”
Ms Joyce said the animal was too large to have been an ordinary feral cat. “It was very much bigger,” she said.
Her mobile phone’s battery had died earlier on the three-hour walk so she couldn’t take any photos of the incident, she said.
She is unconcerned skeptics may doubt her tale.
“I’m just concerned someone might get hurt. I don’t give a toss if people believe me or not.”
Mike Williams, co-author of Australian Big Cats: An Unnatural History of Panthers, said the latest sighting joined hundreds logged in and around the Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury districts.
“While we were writing our book we collected contemporary and historical sightings from across the Blue Mountains, including around the Glenbrook, Springwood, Hazelbrook, Katoomba, Blackheath and Lithgow areas,” Mr Williams said.
“One compelling case occurred in the Glenbrook area in 1972 where former rangers John Gallard and John Buhr discovered enormous paw prints and were ‘staggered at the potential of the animal that made them… The tracks were in slightly moist silty sand and heading in the direction of the Ironbarks’.
“And in 1995 a group of ex-special forces soldiers were conducting a survival training course in Glenbrook and told Hawkesbury researcher Chris Coffey they ‘awoke to a horrendous scream of some animal’ and upon exiting their tent they witnessed what at first appeared to be a black dog that ‘moved with cat-like agility’.
“They tracked it until they spotted a six inch paw print and decided better of continuing their search,” Mr Williams said.
“The wilderness of the Blue Mountains stretches over 1 million hectares… It’s not unreasonable to suggest that something flesh and blood, and as equally enigmatic as the Wollemi Pine, might be lurking within that rugged landscape.”