A billionaire has told how armed police descended on his house and cornered a big cat in his garden in North London.
But the animal managed to escape from the huge garden in a road next to The Bishop’s Avenue, dubbed ‘billionaire’s row’.
Nirmal Sethia, 78, told how officers arrived at about 9.30pm last night and were there for four hours in the property in Winnington Road, where business mogul Gerald Ronson and property magnate Chris Lazari also have properties.
A big cat was spotted on the loose and an armed police response unit was deployed after receiving calls from frightened residents in Highgate on Monday night
Nirmal Sethia, 78, explained how armed police descended on his property but the animal escaped from the huge garden in a road next to The Bishop’s Avenue, north London
He said he now fears for his two-year-old twin grandchildren, a boy and a girl, who are quarantining with him with their parents in his mansion in Hampstead, north London.
The tycoon behind luxury brand Newby Teas said officers knocked on his door at 9.30pm to ask if they could search for the cat in his garden.
The Metropolitan Police said the cat, which some thought could be a pet hybrid Savannah cat but MailOnline’s expert thinks is a more ferocious Serval, was not deemed a danger to the public and no attacks had been reported.
Mr Sethia was not sure, saying he is convinced it could be a cheetah or a small leopard that could be a danger to families in the ‘Billionaire’s Row’.
An expert told MailOnline he believes the pictured animal is Serval, in contrast to the police assertion that there is no danger posed. It is legal to own a Savannah but a dangerous animal licence is needed to keep a Serval.
Mr Sethia had police at his property on Winnington Road for four hours on Monday night
What is a Serval cat?
Serval cats are wild animals native to Africa. They are found in most sub-Saharan countries, can be found up to 62cm tall and weigh up to 20kg.
Serval’s hunt rodents and reptiles and kills with a powerful bite to the neck or head.
They have a small head, large ears, spotted and striped coat and anyone wanting to legally keep one in the United Kingdom would need a dangerous animal licence.
They are bred by some with domestic cats to create a Savannah, which can be legally kept without a licence, but an expert told MailOnline he believes the cat on the loose to be the more dangerous Serval.
Danny Reynolds, from Exmoor Zoo, said he believes it is the more dangerous Serval, which requires the owner to have a Dangerous Wildlife license.
Mr Reynolds said: ‘This is not a Savannah cat. It is a Serval and for the record it is obviously one of the breeding stock which would be crossed to achieve the ‘savannah’.
‘In our opinion this highlights why people and breeders should not be allowed to be able to have these animals – it would by law require a Dangerous Wildlife license which would mean the premises would have to be inspected and licensed by the local authority and part of that licensing is to check that it cannot escape.’
Mr Reynolds went on to warn that the animal could cause real damage, adding: ‘It is significantly large enough and strong enough to kill another cat and inflict would bites on any human that attempts to capture – regardless of it is hand reared or steady.
The 78-year-old praised the police but could not understand how they let the animal escape
The property has a large garden and the big cat managed to evade capture on Monday night
The animal on the loose is thought by an expert from Exmoor Zoo to be a Serval (pictured) which is an African wildcat and capable of killing domestic cats with ease
‘Again if it has been kept by a person then it will have less instinctive fear of people and may if hungry instigate contact. It should definitely be avoided and reported for dart gun capture by a specialist – unless the owner can be found.
‘And if it is being kept illegally – then the owner is unlikely to come forward. All for the sake of money and a new hybrid ‘pet fad’, he said.
Mr Sethia went on to explain how the situation unfolded on Monday night: ‘At 9.30pm all of the police officers came and explained to me there is a wild cat which is loose and asked, ‘Would you kindly allow us to go into the garden and have a look for it?’.
‘The garden is huge, and there are lots of trees where it could be hidden. Police said it could be a cheetah.
‘He showed me a picture taken by the gentleman at number 17 who was having dinner.
‘Number 19 has no garden. It’s a small patch. It’s an insignificant patch so it had to come through here.
Police armed with machine guns and tasers arrived at the property after calls last night
Bishops Avenue (pictured today) houses some of the wealthiest individuals in the country
‘The main garden is here. This is probably the biggest garden on Winnington Road. There are lots of bushes.
‘Slowly more and more people started coming and about 12 police, then 15 to 20. Most of them had guns, some had machine guns. Some had those electronic tasers.
‘They identified the cat. They were totally vigilant. The cat was hidden behind in the bushes and made its way along the back of my garden.’
Mr Sethia said there were around 11 officers in his home, with around seven or eight armed officers out in the garden trying to corner the cat.
He said a helicopter hovered overhead while an expert from Kent on wild species also attended the property.
The police confirmed that a response team was deployed and the cat is still on the loose
He said: ‘None of the garden was damaged by the cat or the police. I’m very proud of our police. Very proud as they were impeccably behaved, polite, and very cooperative. They cornered it at the side.
‘When it was getting late, I was tired. We all decided to retire and leave the police force in the garden.’
He added: ‘In the morning I was told the cat had escaped. They had the guns, they had everything. Why did they allow it to escape?
‘I believe it was an excuse [to say it was a Savannah cat]. If you look at the picture, it’s a cheetah.
Leafy Winnington Road is home to some of the most lavish and desirable properties in the UK
This is one of the lavish properties on Winnington Road where the big cat was spotted, the mansion is one of a number of huge homes and this one sold for £21.75million
‘There are crazy people. Somebody who’s influential or has money, he decides to have a cheetah and keep it in the house. If you go to Dubai or Saudi they have their zoos as the land is practically free.
‘Here the land is restricted and expensive. Someone around has kept a cheetah and the cheetah found a chance to escape.
‘There was an incident last year with a Savannah cat, so I think they’re trying to link the Savannah cat incident in September last year to this incident.’
What is a Savannah cat and are they legal in the UK?
Savannah Cats are characterised by their long, slender necks, triangular heads and large, wide ears.
It is a crossbreed of a domestic cat with an African Serval, and they weigh on average between 20 and 30lb.
The first kitten, named ‘Savannah’ was born on April 7, 1986 and the first generation possessed traits of both domestic cats and African Servals.
Savannah cats for sale are almost always described with the letter ‘F’ and an accompanying number designation.
This ‘F’ number is known as a filial number, and indicates how far removed from the Serval side of their ancestry the Savannah cat is.
F1 Savannah cats are cats that have a Serval as one parent and a domestic cat as the other, leading to them being 50% Serval and 50% domestic. These are the rarest Savannah cats.
F2 Savannah cats are second-generation crossings, which have one Serval grandparent with three domestic cat grandparents.
F3 Savannah cats are third generation crossings, with one Serval great-grandparent.
In the UK, it is not legal to own a Serval or a first generation (F1) Savannah cat, being a cat that is half Serval and half domestic, without a special licence that the average cat owner will be unable to attain.
However, F2 and subsequent generations are legal to own within the UK.
He said the entire neighbourhood has been alight with nerves over the loose big cat, which has still not be found according to the police.
‘Every house practically knew it. If there was some owner, why had they not claimed it?
‘To the best of my knowledge, it hasn’t been claimed. It may have gone back to the owner. If it escaped and it’s loose, then the risk is there. I don’t know what the truth is.
‘I hope the owner is questioned on why they want to keep a dangerous species.
‘The cat may not be dangerous, but it looks dangerous. For those that don’t know what’s going on, it’s a terror.
‘I’ve got two two-year-old grandchildren. We have a garden. My instruction to the staff and nanny is to keep them safe.
‘It’s scary. Thank god it happened in the evening. The focus should be is finding out who is the owner?
‘How will the government deal with the owner? If he had permission to have it, how come he lacks the capability of managing something which he decided to have for his pleasure?
‘His pleasure gives so much discomfort and terrorises so many people.
‘We were having phone calls from the neighbours, saying, ‘don’t allow kids to go in the garden’.’
Mr Sethia, who spends the majority of his time living in Dubai, has owned the property since 1976.
The semi-retired businessman, who now spends the majority of his time looking after his charity the N Sethia Foundation which focuses on funding medical research, said while the police officers that attended his property were excellent he wants answers on how they could let the cat go.
He said: ‘The police handled the situation very well. I’ve seen police forces in other countries become very arrogant. They were very polite.
‘The code of conduct was amazing. They did their best to protect everybody. I expected they had the right to shoot.
‘If it was a cheetah or a Savannah, whatever it was terrorised everybody and could have been anything.
Heath Hall on Bishops Avenue is one of the most grand buildings on ‘Billionaires’ Row’
‘If it was a cheetah, it could have hurt anybody. If it was a cat, still the guy that owns the cat he had no business to let it be loose. He had no business to lack the security to let it go.
‘It’s a big cat. It’s not a small cat. It was very large. But then maybe for political reasons, and not to terrorise the people living in the area, they might have said it was a Savannah cat.
Natalie Dangoor (above) saw the animal in her garden while having dinner on Monday
‘How did the police let it go? How did the cat escape? For four hours it was in my garden. What happened?’
Resident Natalie Dangoor, 24, was having dinner in the garden with her mum around 8pm when they saw what they thought was a cat’s face in their storage area.
After stomping their foot to try scare it away it came out and they realised it looked like a cheetah.
She said: ‘It looked scared. I felt sorry for it. It came out and at that point we realised it’s not a cat. It literally looked like a cheetah, but it was smaller.
‘It was very weird. It was scary. It kind of kept walking but it didn’t come too close.
‘We went inside and closed the door. We have a German shepherd who would have killed that kind of animal so luckily he was not outside. We also have chickens in the back garden.’
She added there were suspicions it belonged to a family on Bishops Avenue, a Billionaire’s row, but ‘no one really knows.’
The Savannah is the largest domestic cat breed in the world, costing around £4000 and have tall, slim build which accounts for an appearance greater than their weight would suggest.
Savannah’s have distinct markings and erect, pointed ears which give them an exotic appearance and can also leap up to around eight feet in the air from a standing position. They are legal to own as pets in the UK provided they meet certain criteria and are of an acceptable generation.
Servals, on the other hand, are bred with other cats to create the Savannah and are more dangerous.
They are widespread in most sub-Saharan African countries and can weigh almost 20kg, usually preying on rodents.
Pictured: A Savannah cat. They can grow to 17 inches tall and leap up to eight feet in the air
The owner of number 17, who phoned the police about the loose cat, said they ‘did not want to speak about the incident’.
Other neighbours said they were nervous about letting their children or small pets out in their gardens.
One woman, who only gave her name as Maria, said: ‘I’m not letting my puppy out in the garden, that’s for sure, until I know it’s found.
‘The police must find it and speak to the owner as soon as possible. I’m not happy about it. I hope it’s not a danger.
A spokesperson said: ‘Officers attended the scene.
In September last year mother-of-four Dr Neetu Nirdosh (above) said a cheetah like cat circled her children at their Hampstead home
‘An animal expert also attended and visually assessed the cat; it was concluded the animal was not thought to be dangerous or a threat to the public.
‘The cat made off from the garden; enquiries continue to locate it. There have been no reports of attacks or injuries to members of the public.’
In September, 2019, Mother-of-four Dr Neetu Nirdosh, told how she heard her son Alexander, four, and daughter Falcon, five, scream that a ‘cheetah’ had entered their garden on Saturday afternoon.
As she peered out of the kitchen window and saw the large leopard spotted cat, ‘maternal instinct took over’ and she ran outside and desperately tried to scare it away.
Dr Nirdosh told MailOnline: ‘I popped my head to the side and I saw this big animal. It was tugging at my child’s jumper, circling them. My heart jumped out of my chest. I dived in. Maternal instinct took over.
‘I thought it was going to eat my kids. It kept opening its mouth really wide. I threw our toy horse at it. We all ran back inside and locked the door,’ she concluded.
The Metropolitan Police has tried to comfort the public by saying it was not deemed a danger and no attacks had been reported.