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Post  Guest on 2015-03-30, 5:04 pm

To take your mind off this week, I thought this might distract you for a while. As my family will tell you, the more stupid my stories are, the more likely they are to be true. And this one is very true - I even had some indirect involvement. Google it if you want - it's all on there.

So read this newspaper report and note I have put my comments at the end

QUOTE : "Four lions escape in Grimsby town centre!

Four Lions Flee Big Top!

It’s the stuff of a Hollywood film script… lions escape from a circus ring and cause havoc in a town centre. But this is exactly what happened in Grimsby on March 7, 1991.

Not one, but four of the ferocious beasts were on the loose and brought the town centre to a standstill.

They broke free during a performance at the visiting Chipperfield’s Circus. It was about 7.40pm when their cage, temporarily housed in Burgess Street, was sabotaged.

This act of vandalism allowed the beasts to roam the streets for more than an hour before they were caught and returned. During the evening of terror, Grimsby father Michael Strandt was mauled. He needed 24 stitches after a lion pounced on him and sunk its teeth into his neck. Mr Strandt had been dashing to the aid of his wife and young daughter who were caught up in the scenes of chaos. He owes his life to heroic policeman Ron Harrison, who rammed the animal with his patrol car.

A special 6am edition of the then Grimsby Evening Telegraph brought the shocking news to the town with the headline: 'Terror as four lions flee big top – man mauled in circus break-out.'

'The next thing, this lion was pounding after me. It leaped up to me, grabbing the top of my shoulder, and pulled me down," Mr Strandt told the newspaper shortly after his ordeal. "I thought I was never going to get up. I rolled into a ball to try to protect myself.'

Circus staff were also widely praised for the way they handled the break-out, and one red-nosed clown was hailed a hero after he chased after one of the lions.

'The clown, complete with red nose, big feet and ridiculous costume trapped one of the lions in an alley at the Victoria Street bus station' the Telegraph reported.

The clown had earlier rushed into the nearby Grimsby Police Station to alert the force about what had happened.

The police sergeant, Stewart Bellamy, blocked the passage with his car, and the clown used the chair and stick to ward off the lion before some gates were shut to trap the animal - captured in a powerful photograph taken by a photographer from the local paper.

'I thought that was it, we had the lion. But then the clown informed me there were three more on the loose! The reaction of people nearby was total disbelief and they would not take notice of what we were telling them. They were putting themselves in great danger.' Sergeant Bellamy said at the time.

Eyewitnesses in the big top told how the circus turned into a 'horror movie'.

Gordon Contegiacomo was 18 and sitting in one of the back rows with his brother.

'It was just chaotic. The lions were first on but they came straight back out again after they had gone off,' he said. 'I saw a guy in blue overalls come running back in the ring like a bat out of hell. We were lucky to get out quite quickly.'

Lynne Stead, of Haven Avenue, Grimsby, was sitting at the ringside with her son Paul.

'The lions had been performing but did not seem to want to play,' she said. 'Music came on after the performance and I looked round to see people stampeding from the back. Someone shouted the lions are on the loose. I grabbed Paul and got him out.'

One of the lions was captured after being trapped in the Grimsby Cleethorpes Transport bus depot, now operated by Stagecoach. Brian Doyle, a club steward for Grimsby Cleethorpes Transport, told the Telegraph there were around 30 staff in the building at the time.

He said: 'It just kept roaring and roaring. It was obviously on the defensive and nobody was sure how it was going to react. I've seen a lot happen on GCT property, but never a lion.'

Despite the escape – and further protests by activists – the show went on the next night as normal as scores of families refused to let the drama stop their evening out.

Michelle Hurst, now deputy editor of the newspaper, was a reporter at the time of the incident.

Here she recalls her experience: 'I just couldn’t believe the words I was hearing - lions escaping! It’s the stuff of films. The stuff of comedies… but this was no comedy. That said, when I was asked if I could work that night to write reports for an early morning edition, I jumped at the chance. It was, after all, the stuff of journalists’ dreams. And though I’ve worked many nights since, the one I will always remember the most is when lions roamed around Grimsby town centre. 

I was dispatched to the scene alongside another reporter. I remember the darkness. Whether the street lights were not as powerful then, or whether it was a cloudy night masking the moon, I don’t know, but it was difficult to make things out – and, thinking back, I think that was a good thing! For while the other reporter went off in one direction, and I was trying to find people near to the bus station. That was where one red-nosed clown was hailed a hero after chasing one of the lions. I saw the clown and then I saw what he was following – a dark shadow that I can only believe was one of the lions, slowly ambling along totally unaware of the chaos and terror it was causing! And then it was gone … into the bus station. Of course, in those days, mobile phones didn’t exist so the full extent of what happened only became clear when all staff had reconvened in the office after the lions were caught and we began writing articles for the special edition. It was a night of high drama – certainly one I was thrilled as a journalist to be involved in – although looking back I still can’t quite believe it!'


1. The reporter was a cub reporter so she got the job.

2. On the best authority, I was told that the plaintiff injured party was stood at a bus stop when lots of people ran by, screaming and shouting, "Run. Run. Lions have escaped." After a while, he turned round to see he was now the only one in the bus queue ! He managed to stop a runner and asked where were these lions, only to be told, "You don't think I'm feckin' chasing it do you ?" The answer of the century. The rest is history.

3. Amused by the fact that the hero clown kept on his red nose and daft shoes throughout. The lioness was "Slowly ambling," so his shoes were OK ! And he was carrying a chair.

4. And by the fact that the show went on the next night as if nothing had happened. Real troopers. The lions decided it was safer back in the big top.

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Post  cyprussyd on 2015-03-30, 5:22 pm

'I thought that was it, we had the lion. But then the clown informed me there were three more on the loose! 

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Post  Hieronymus on 2015-03-30, 6:04 pm

Great story Spuggy. I know it could have had serious consequences but this really made me giggle  lol!
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