Residents of Essex are on the lookout for a wild animal after a woman in Chelmsford reported seeing a big cat in her back garden.

The worried resident wrote to the Essex Chronicle to share the close encounter with what she described as “a big wild cat, possibly a lynx or a jungle cat”.

The unnamed resident continued: “I had let my Yorkshire Terrier Dylan out into the garden. There was a commotion at the back door with the dog whimpering and scratching to get in.

"At the time I thought nothing of this, opening the door and continuing with the washing up.

"When I returned to my sink and looked up, what I saw out of my kitchen window made me shiver with fear and momentarily rendered me speechless.

"There, stood bold as brass, looking straight into the window from the end of my garden was a huge cat with leopard-like markings and no tail.

"He was far bigger than a domestic cat, really quite tall with big green eyes.

"With one huge leap the cat had jumped onto the top of my 7ft fence and disappeared over the other side.

"I have never seen anything like this in my life and remain shaken by the experience."

Locals were quick to nickname the presumed wild cat the ‘Beast of Broomfield’. Broomfield is a village just north of Chelmsford – where the cat was spotted.

However, it seems that the sighting may be down to something far more mundane – a lost cat.

A 15lb Bengal cat named Dougal recently went missing from his Chelmsford home. Owners Hannah Butcher and Darren Brown told the BBC that they had put up missing cat posters around town.

Once news of the Beast of Broomfield broke the couple was “inundated” with calls.

"It's not a leopard," Miss Butcher told the BBC. "It's bound to be Dougal, my cat."

Bengal cats can be mistaken for wild cats due to the similarity of their markings: Bengal cats’ coats are spotted or striped. But while they are typically larger than the average cat, Bengal cats should be a lot smaller than even the smallest big cat.

It’s not the first time that Essex has been the setting for ‘big cat’ sightings. In August 2012 another pet cat – called Teddy Bear – was reportedly the reason for a number of ‘lion’ sightings near St Osyth, while in August last year a former police officer reported fleeing from a ‘panther’ in a field near Finchingfield.