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They are the elusive shadows that stalk the countryside, feeding on sheep and terrorising rural communities – but a big cat now appears to have found its way to one of Wales’ most densely populated areas.

Experts warned pet owners in Merthyr Tydfil to lock up their animals after a “panther-like” creature was spotted prowling on the outskirts of the Valleys town.

Coach driver Robert Davies, of Hirwaun, was driving home from work when he claims he saw a large black cat “bounding” across the A470 near Merthyr.

The 61-year-old was turning off a roundabout near Cyfarthfa Retail Park at around 10.30pm on Saturday when he claims the animal ran across the road in front of him in the direction of Gellideg, Cyfarthfa.

He said: “I had just come off the roundabout, so I was only doing about 20mph when it just appeared in the middle of the road.

“It was about 25 feet in front of me and ran straight into the light from my headlights.

“I used to own an Irish setter and it was definitely much bigger than that, black, with a long tail and a head a bit like a boxer dog. It bounded across from the central reservation in about three leaps.

“I had to do a double take, but there was no mistaking what it was.”

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