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A strange creature has been captured on camera on Hackney Marshes - 30 years after the unexplained sighting of another mystery beast sparked a full-scale search for a suspected bear on the loose.

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Terrified university student Helen Murray said she took the snaps while out for a stroll near dense woodland close to a path near the Old River Lea on bank holiday Monday earlier this month.

She said she was stopped in her tracks by the unknown animal, which was larger than a person and covered in shaggy black fur.

“I tried to stay calm as I wasn’t sure what kind of animal it was or if it was even alive,” she said. “I had my phone ready to call 999. Then the creature moved. Somehow I managed to take a couple of pictures before I ran.

“I managed to get away but was scared half to death.”

Ms Murray says she didn’t contact the police because she thought they wouldn’t believe her.

A spokeswoman for Hackney police said there have been no other reports of sightings, while experts at London Zoo said the pictures were not clear enough for them to comment.

The photographs have revived memories of the unexplained case of a bear reportedly sighted on the Marshes in 1981 - 50 police officers, army marksmen, and a helicopter were drafted in to search the area, but the beast was never found.

Officers at the time stressed the people who’d seen the animal were not hoaxers, although they admitted they could have been victims of a hoax.

Two bear carcasses had previously been found nearby in the River Lea and it remains a mystery how they got there.

• A hoax, a large dog, or the Beast of Hackney Marshes? What do you think of the pictures? Send us your comments below or email us at hg.editorial@archant.co.uk.

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