SE London has a whole folklore of supposed big cat sightings - the Beast of Bexley, the Palace Puma, even the Nunhead Panther - with theories to explain them of varying degress of probability. One of the biggest cat panics occurred in 1963 on Shooters Hill, where a supposed Cheetah was reported in the Oxleas Wood area.
"The most famous labour-intensive hunt was for an animal dubbed by the press 'The Shooters Hill Cheetah'. On the 18th July 1963 David Beck, driving through Shooters Hill in south-east London, saw a large animal lying by the side of the road. Assuming it to be an injured dog he approached it, and then realised it was in fact a large cat with a long, upward curling tail. It ran off into Oxleas Wood. The same night police officers were amazed to see a 'large golden animal' jump over the bonnet of their patrol car. A check with zoos and circuses confirmed that no animals had escaped.
It was a magnificent affair. It covered 850 acres and involved 126 policemen with 21 dogs, thirty soldiers, ambulance men and RSPCA officials. No sign of a big cat was found - except for some spoor. These were huge - some seven inches across, the size usually associated with a lion or tiger; yet they showed claw marks, the characteristic not of a lions, but of a cheetah's paw print. The 'cheetah', however, was never caught and the hunters dispersed'.
Source: Mystery Big Cats by Merrily Harpur (Heart of Albion Press, 2005)