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Sunday, March 6, 2011

A hump-backed hoax: Was the 'monster' spotted gliding through Lake Windermere no more than an old tyre?

By Abul Taher

Truth surfaces: The split tyre (below) may explain the mystery of the 'Bowness Monster' of Windermere (above)

The mysterious form moving through the water appeared the most tantalising proof yet of the creature dubbed the English Loch Ness Monster.

Displaying four humps, it was described as being the ‘size of three cars’ by two witnesses kayaking on Lake Windermere in Cumbria.

They said it moved at about 15mph before disappearing beneath the water after about 20 seconds.

The photo, taken by Tom Pickles, 24, on a mobile three weeks ago, appeared in newspapers and became an internet sensation. It seemed to confirm eight other sightings of the ‘Bowness Monster’, named after a town on Windermere’s banks.

But last week a family found something by the lake which casts suspicions on the existence of the beast – a large tyre cut open which when floating on water looks rather like the four-humped creature.

‘We were walking in the area where the picture was taken and suddenly saw this tyre cut open lying on the footpath. I thought, “This looks like the creature,” ’ said John Phillips, 46, who was at Windermere for the half-term break with wife Liz and their three daughters.

Mr Phillips, of Solihull, West Midlands, threw the tyre into the water and said he was stunned by the resemblance to the photo.

‘If you looked at this tyre floating from a distance, it did look a Nessie-like creature,’ he said.

‘But in the original picture there was a wave of water behind the creature, which suggested it was moving at speed. I think it was being pulled with a rope by a person or a boat. I don’t want to ruin anyone’s fun, but maybe this tyre is the Bowness Monster.’

IT worker Mr Pickles, from Shrewsbury, was kayaking with colleague Sarah Harrington, 23, on a company team-building exercise near the lake’s Belle Isle when they saw the monster 200ft from them.

He said at the time: ‘At first I thought it was a dog, then I saw it was much bigger and moving really fast. Its skin was dark black or browny and like a seal’s, but its shape was not like any animal I’ve ever seen.’

The tyre Mr Phillips found is black and he said its tread gives it a ‘leathery’ look from a
distance, resembling the skin of a seal or a snake.

But Mr Phillips’s photo of the tyre has failed to convince everyone.

Thomas Noblett, 48, who runs a hotel in Windermere, said he got up close to Bownessie in 2009. He said he was swimming with a friend in the lake at 6.30am when he felt a sudden force brush past his legs.

‘I felt something really big and powerful go past me and at first I thought it was a boat engine,’ he said. ‘Then as it went past, all my friend and I saw were very big waves, and then it disappeared.’

He has since scoured Windermere with a sonar boat in search of Bownessie, and knows three people who claim to have sighted her.

‘I am not convinced by the tyre explanation and I still believe there is a creature out there,’ he added.

Nigel Wilkinson, of Windermere Lake Cruises, claimed Bownessie in Mr Pickles’ photo is a group of otters.

He added: ‘The problem with the tyre theory is that if it is a hoax, you don’t normally leave the evidence behind, lying around.’

Mr Pickles told The Mail on Sunday yesterday: ‘I don’t want to say anything more about this.’



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