RESIDENTS in towns and villages across Renfrewshire were left spooked in 2003 after a pair of “black leopards” were spotted prowling through the countryside.

There were reports of fierce creatures being seen in fields in Johnstone, Linwood, Lochwinnoch, Kilmacolm, Howwood and Houston.

A local land owner told The Gazette about a terrifying encounter with what she believed to have been a mother and cub.

She said at the time: “I heard a terrible shriek coming from the hen run. When I got closer, I could see what looked like a big Alsatian dog sitting on top of a post above my hens.

“As I approached, I was unsure about what I was looking at. I went closer to see what it was. When I got next to it, I saw it had pointy ears and a squarish head and it was a very big black cat.

“It leapt down onto the other side of the fence and hissed at me. It was only then I saw there was another one.

“It looked to me like a mother and cub, but I didn’t feel threatened by them and they just ran off into the woods.”

In Lochwinnoch, another sighting startled a motorist who slammed on the brakes when he encountered the animal.

Local resident George Bremner, 38 said: “I was driving through Lochwinnoch with a friend and spotted a huge monster of a beast in the field.

“I slammed on the brakes and the animal just sat staring at me before disappearing into the long grass.”

The sightings came just days after a school cleaner told how she ran for her life after seeing a “wild beast” in Johnstone.

Pupils at Auchenlodment Primary and Lochwinnoch Primary were asked not to stray far from the school grounds.