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The Sydney Morning Herald


Date: 24/05/2001
Words: 1000
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: News And Features
Page: 26
Flabbit! The panther's a paw on a stick

The Lithgow Panther is a fake, a story concocted by drinkers at the Kurrajong Heights Hotel more than 20 years ago and revived two months ago with a fake paw on a stick.

That's the truth, the whole truth and nothing but, Spike has been assured by Roy Rotherham, one of those responsible. Rotherham's claim should be taken seriously because he is an expert on fake animals, being the man behind the great flabbit hunt of 1985. (A flabbit is a flying rabbit ``spotted" on the Colo River, north-west of Windsor, and featured on the front-page of The Daily Mirror.)

``The panther is basically a footprint on a stick," claims Rotherham, a semi-retired jeweller now living outside Sydney. ``It was just a bit of fun."

He ``rebirthed" the panther more than two months ago, but hadn't anticipated such interest. ``The police are out there looking for it, which is ridiculous."

Yesterday's Tele included a free bonus wall-chart of mythical creatures, yet it strangely neglected the flabbit. The stuffed rabbit with bird feathers stuck to it was made by Rotherham on his kitchen table and photographed by him in the ``wild" 16 years ago. The hoax took flight, so to speak, when Mike Gibson on 2UE received phone calls from listeners claiming to have seen the flabbit several years before it appeared in The Mirror. ``It's all rubbish," Rotherham said of the panther and other mysteries such as the yowie. ``I saw the recent shots of the panther and they are ridiculously grainy and out of focus it was a cat. But there will always be diehards out there who want to believe."

Spike hopes the panther can now be laid to rest so the people of the Blue Mountains can return to normality.

Suspicious minds

The folk over at Arthur Andersen, auditors of choice for collapsed insurer HIH, are a bit jumpy at the moment and it doesn't help when people leave suspicious bags in the foyer of their George Street building. The bomb squad was called in yesterday to inspect an unattended backpack after the building manager raised the alarm mid-afternoon. The area was closed off while it was confirmed that the unattended backpack was in fact nothing more than an unattended backpack. The fact the manager was even on the lookout for anything suspicious suggests there are some concerns about disgruntled HIH policy-holders.

Courting with lunacy

Last week 23-year-old Sydneysider Adam Spark argued seriously before a court of law that the Roads and Traffic Authority was negligent in building a bridge in such a sloppy fashion that a man who had consumed 57 beers couldn't walk across it without falling off. The same court heard the Epping Hotel was also at fault. After all, the hotel was holding a promotion aimed at wait for it selling more alcohol.

It isn't just Australia (and of course America) that has gone completely find-me-someone-to-sue mad. The Press Association reports that in the UK a dinner party guest has sued her host after falling through a glass dining chair and grazing her bottom. Margaret Stewart, 47, had just finished eating dinner at the home of friend Annette Martin when the seat gave way. Fellow guests helped to free Miss Stewart, a conservation campaigner, who attended to the graze in the bathroom before returning to the party. But Miss Martin, 44, from Kingsdown, near Bath, was shocked to later receive a letter from Miss Stewart's solicitor demanding damages for personal injuries and suggesting she was guilty of providing defective seating under the Occupiers' Liability Act.

``I was absolutely gobsmacked because we had been good friends," said Miss Martin. ``She looked perfectly fine when she walked out of the door that evening. I'm never going to invite people around for dinner again."

Keep it clean

It's not just Spike which has had enough of the air pollution that is skywriting. Readers from all over town have written and phoned in with tales of frustrating attempts to lodge complaints against not just skywriting, but any aeroplane, helicopter or blimp brandishing some sort of message.

Tom McGinness of Randwick for one asked: ``How can Sydneysiders be up in arms about the MCA while remaining oblivious to the ongoing crime above their heads?"

Spike's most recent call to the Civil Aviation Safety Authority confirmed initial fears. Basically as long as an aircraft meets air-worthiness standards, has the appropriate certificate and the pilot has cleared the activity with the relevant air traffic control, they can do pretty much as they please.

Spike contacted Rob Vance of Skywriting Australia, Sydney's most prolific aerial scribe.

He says he has had to draw the line on several occasions, but what goes up comes down to his discretion.

``I've had some pretty silly requests, usually when someone's cranky about someone else and wants me to go over their place with some message," he said.

``When there were wars in Bosnia there were quite a few, but I just stayed away."

Vance admitted Sydney skies had been pretty full of late, but assures us things will be quiet for the next few weeks.

Wea Culpa

Rachel Williams, from the Office of Film and Literature Classification, writes to tell us that Traffic is classified MA, with the consumer advice of ``Drug Use" and ``Adult Themes". We accept that in claiming it was R-rated yesterday we were completely, utterly, absolutely and unforgivably wrong. Or, as a politician would say: we were right.

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