WHEN he picked up a cuddly toy from a rubbish heap to play a game with his dog, Kevin Blunden had no idea of the chaos it would cause.

The cuddly toy sparked an armed police operation ten years ago when it was feared a real tiger was on the loose.

Officers leapt into action with guns and body protectors after alarmed motorists reported an escaped white tiger sitting in a field overlooking the Rose Bowl golf course.

A police helicopter with thermo-imaging cameras also joined the hunt and contingency plans were drawn up to close the M27 in case the prowling beast wandered on to junction 7.

Meanwhile cricketers and golfers playing at the nearby Rose Bowl nursery cricket ground and golf course were ushered into the pavilion and told to lock the door.

But the escaped animal turned out to be a life-sized stuffed toy – even though a real deer carcase lay nearby.


The stuffed toy tiger

The stuffed toy 'tiger'


A little more than a week later and Mr Blunden from Harefield admitted it was him that inadvertently sparked the massive police operation after picking up the abandoned toy from a derelict garage to play a game with his five-year-old border collie-cross Saski.

He said: “I was walking past some derelict garages where people dump rubbish and saw that in there, with some loft insulation, was this tiger.

“I thought it would be fun to play with my dog with it, so I drove down to the field in Hedge End.

“I was chucking it around and she was sniffing it and running away again.

“I was out there for some time, but got bored after a while and just left it there. I didn’t think any more about it.”


Kevin Blunden with his collie cross Saski.

Kevin Blunden with his collie cross Saski.


The father-of-three was hailed a hero on an Internet group called “The Legend who put a Stuffed Toy Tiger in Hedge End”, which attracted more than 9,000 members.

Reports about the cuddly toy were broadcasted around the globe and the story was even featured on BBC comedy panel show Have I Got News For You.

But Mr Blunden told the Echo he was ‘embarrassed’ about what happened and thinks the police response was over the top.

He said: “When I saw it on the rubbish pile, I didn’t think ‘oh my God, that’s a real Siberian tiger’.

“They could have just thrown a stone or a stick at it to see if it moved – you could see it wasn’t real.

“When I heard what had happened I was terrified that I was going to get in trouble for it. I went round to some friends for a barbecue and all of them were saying, ‘you’re a legend’ as though I was some kind of hero.