Police said Monday that they've found no evidence to support locals' claims that they'd spotted a big cat prowling the countryside near the idyllic village of St. Osyth, in the southeastern English county of Essex.
Sunday's reported sightings alarmed the village's 4,000 residents, and authorities sent about 40 officers, tranquilizer-toting zoo experts, and a pair of heat-seeking helicopters to the area in an effort to find the beast.
But a police spokeswoman said that, after and an extensive search, "we've found no evidence of any big cat."
So does that mean there never was any lion?
The official, who spoke on customary condition of anonymity, demurred, noting that the people interviewed by police were convinced they'd spotted a lion. That aside, she said, "we've stopped searching for it."
It seems the mysterious "Essex Lion" will join a host of other mythical beasts who regularly appear and then disappear into the British countryside - particularly in the dead of summer, when journalists struggle to fill papers and news bulletins.
In 2011 there was the Hampshire Tiger, whose appearance near a sports field led to a police alert (the tiger turned out to be a stuffed toy.) And in 2007, the British media went wild over a man who claimed to have photographed a great white shark off the coast of Cornwall, in southwestern England.
The man, a bouncer, later admitted that the pictures were actually taken while on vacation in South Africa, adding that he couldn't believe anyone had been foolish enough to take the hoax seriously.