CROCODILE HUNTING IN THE MIDLANDS – Mark’s Account of the Expedition

Saturday 16th January 2021

The CFZ expedition into the mystery Crocodilian sightings began on Monday 21st July. It was a month and a day after my first visit. I booked into an above average B&B, in Hendnesford, a few miles north of the pool. After signing in I nipped out for a quick look round. Hendnesford is a quiet and pleasant little place. Its size that of a large village, rather than small town. A painted sign featured an arrow, prodding in the direction of “The Hen House, the Midland’s best Irish Theme Pub.” Irish theme Pubs are generally about as Irish as Brussels, but never the less I made a mental note that it may need investigating further.

As I returned to the B&B, a tall, distinguished looking fellow was chatting to the landlady. It was Nigel Wright, veteran UFO researcher, CFZ stalwart and expedition member. Nigel greeted me like a long lost brother. He had just arrived with the Exeter HQ contingent. It was hearty handshakes all round as the other team members appeared. Administrator John Fuller, Richard Freeman fresh from hunting Orang Pendek in Sumatra, the permanently laid back Graham Inglis and of course Jonathan. It’s well known Jon is a big man. But it can be surprising just how large he is. I’m a big chunky man, six foot tall and over 15 stone. However, the top of my forehead is only about level with the bottom of Jon’s chin and he is twice as broad as I am. He is a giant, both physically and in Fortean research.

A short time later my Mondeo and Nigel’s people carrier parked at the lake side. Chris Mullins, head honcho of the “Beastwatch” group, was already in situ. Armed with a tripod mounted video camera, on the lookout for Crocodilian Cryptid creatures. I had already discussed the case with Chris over the phone and it was wonderful to meet him in the flesh. Another round of handshakes and greetings between the boys of the CFZ and Chris. Then I gave the crew a briefing on the case to date. This was my fourth visit to the lake and I filled the team in on the witness sightings, and my ideas on what the Beast might be (i.e. a released exotic pet or large Pike). If the animal was a released exotic pet, it must have come from somewhere. I mentioned my thoughts on this; I had some intriguing, information on a local, animal dealer. More about this later.

Richard Freeman gave us a run down on Crocs, the species that we may be dealing with, their behaviour and advice on how to deal with them: “Crocodiles have the most powerful bite muscles in the Animal Kingdom. Twice as powerful as a Great White Shark.” Richard went on to tell us even a small specimen could give a serious bite, or damage you with a lash of the tail. He explained if we made visual contact with the beast, we should not attempt to capture it but summon him. He has vast experience with large Crocodiles, as he is the former head of reptiles at Twycross Zoo. So, if I saw this animal, with jaws twice as powerful as the shark in the film of that name, which can also cut you to bits with its tail. I should stand back and let Richard deal with it. Well, that sounded fine to me. No problem with that at all.

Although I’ve made the last bit sound a bit lurid, Richard went on to explain that small Crocodiles are not man eating monsters (although large ones certainly can be…). It was just a case of being sensible and knowing how to handle the things. He elaborated, although the muscles to snap the jaws shut are fantastically strong, the ones to open are much weaker. Thus the established technique for dealing with Crocs is to lasso them, and tie their jaws shut. Then they can be handled. To facilitate the lassoing of our Cryptid, Rich was armed with a “Catch Pole”, a wooden pole with a sort of noose arrangement at the end.

The next line of business was to launch the CFZ’s inflatable boat. This vessel, a veteran of the campaign to hunt for the Monster of the Mere, is named in honour of Tim Dinsdale’s Nessie hunting craft, “Water Horse.” Graham Inglis was Captain and I was the crew. I paddled around the lake whilst Graham operated the Fish Finder miniature sonar device. Lines were run across the lake and tethered to posts. This made it easier to propel Water Horse across the surface; I took a rest from paddling whilst Graham pulled us across the surface, hand over hand. The respite was welcome, paddling a small inflatable through pond weed is no fun, and I got the blisters to prove it. The lines also helped with measuring and mapping the pool; they were marked at five meter increments. Thus equipped, with boat, sonar and lines Graham Inglis and I made a sonar map of the pools bottom.

During the afternoon the CFZ expeditionary force was reinforced by the deployment of other team members. Peter Channon, a crop circle expert, clearly a very intelligent chap he has the bearing and demeanour of a very friendly University lecturer, but is in fact a self employed electrician. Neil Goodwin, a journalist from Liverpool joined us. Neil is just the type of man I shouldn’t like. Firstly, He is much better looking than me. Secondly, He is much better educated than me. Thirdly, He is much younger than me. However, he is a first class bloke and an absolute dude. CFZ Wiltshire representative Wilf Wharton was also in the thick of it. Wilf has the kind of sense of humour you find in a Rowan Atkinson script and was a continual source of one liners and quips.

Whilst Graham and I were afloat, Jonathan designated duties to the other team members. The shoreline was explored and marker flags positioned at various points of interest. The various groups kept in touch via Walkie-Talkies.

During the early evening, members of the shore party spotted something in the water. Something was moving, causing ripples. Jon’s voice came over the radio, ordering the boat towards the disturbance, the shore party kept the area under surveillance and vectored us in. The activity turned out to be caused by large carp, I got a good look at them and recognised them as such. However, before we reached and identified the Carp, something very interesting happened.

I was paddling towards the sighting area. Then I saw it. Only ten feet or so from the boat. Something surfaced. Just for a couple of seconds. A head, dark green and flat, about nine inches long, coursing through the water, and then back under. Oh how I wish it had stayed up a moment longer. Just a second more , ‘m sure I could have made a positive identification. During the previous month I had spent much time looking at pictures of Crocodiles and Pike. The thing I saw could be a large Pike. It could also have been a Crocodile.

I was stunned for a few moments. I almost fell out of the boat. Then I began to splutter and swear. “Graham, I’ve seen something, I don’t believe it, I think I’ve seen a fucking Crocodile …”

Later, after dark, the team began lamping for the beast. We shone various spot lights, hand and head torches over the pool surface and into the thick reed beds. We hoped our scouring beams would produce a reflection from Crocodilian eyes. Graham and I were water borne once again, I played the rays from my powerful Maglight torch over Water Horse’s bows, into the wall of reeds.

Chris Mullins had a wonderful contraption. A huge spot light attached to a 12volt power supply. It gave as much illumination as a medium sized Light House. All in all the investigative force were spraying several zillion candlepower onto the pool and its surrounding reeds. But to no avail. You see, what ever light we had, was stopped by the wall of vegetation. No matter how powerful the beams the light could not penetrate solid matter. However, the day’s excitement was not over yet. Not by a long way.

At ten to midnight, for the second time in my life, I witnessed a genuine UFO. I was with the rest of the team, milling about on the shore, chatting generally, when Chris and Nigel grabbed my attention. They were both filming an extremely bright white circular light. It was at an apparently high altitude (I must emphasise apparently as, altitude is notoriously difficult to judge). It was completely silent and moving much faster than an aircraft. I measured its direction of travel with the compass on my watch; 114 degrees. It moved across the sky in a straight line until just above the horizon. Then it to swung from left to right. All of this was seen by a team of experienced investigators and filmed on two video cameras. Nigel Wright is particularly well qualified. He has studied the UFO phenomena for 35 years, lecturers on the subject and contributes to UFO Magazine.

John A Keel, the great Fortean writer has chronicled numerous cases of supposedly different types of strange phenomena occurring in the same place at the same time. Keel went to Point Pleasant, West Virginia to look for the Mothman and he encountered UFOs. The CFZ went to Staffordshire, looking for a Crocodile and we saw a UFO. Jonathan Downes summed it up best, a couple of moments after our CE1; “Well, you see, these things happen when you are Monster Hunting.”

Tuesday morning found our investigations into the mystery Crocodile continuing. About 1000 words ago I raised the matter of where a large reptile, an illegal exotic pet, could have come from, and that I had some interesting information. During my investigations I was told some interesting information, by a person who was in a position to know such things. A local exotic pet dealer was utterly corrupt and happy to smuggle and sell any animal. My informant will remain forever nameless, as they told me this in confidence. The area indicated by my source, was scoured via the phone and internet. I found a business, which perfectly matched the description given by my source. Perhaps our Croc originated here . There was strong corroborating evidence. A 14 inch long Snapping Turtle , was discovered a few days previously, in a waterway, four miles south of our pool. Someone was in the habit of discarding large reptiles.

I passed the information on the suspect animal dealer to Jonathan. During Tuesday he left the lake side to dig into the matter and do some sleuthing. He returned later, with news of exciting discoveries. The business in question had gone to the wall a couple of months previously. Their former landlord said they had disappeared. Other legitimate, pet businesses had confirmed the dodgy reputation. Maybe, just maybe the Case of the Cannock Crocodile had been cracked.

Later that day I was delighted once again to meet John Mizzen, his daughter Linda Charteris and his Grand Daughters. The family had agreed to take part in a “Crimewatch” style reconstruction of their encounter. Neil and I were cameramen. Richard walked with the family down to the lake shore, and they talked through the sighting. Graham and Peter manned Water Horse and played the Croc. Mr Mizzen directed the boat to the positions where he had seen the Beast and measurements were taken. I remain very impressed with John and Linda’s witness testimony. Their story has not altered at all, no exaggeration, no speculation. The description they give is more Crocodilian than a Pike like. Mr Mizzen is sure he could see serrations on the tail.

Conclusions? Well, nothing is ever certain, but I find myself gravitating towards the corrupt animal dealer, going bust and chucking his remaining stock into the local waterways (remember, someone definitely discarded the snapping turtle). Then, of course, I saw something myself, which may, (or may not) have been a Croc. Then we have the very strong Mizzen family testimony. All of this, I feel is probably , too much of a coincidence. And , as a wise man once said “There is no such thing as coincidence”.

Member of the CFZ team since March 2009, Liz Bitakaramire lives oop north and is currently working on The Mystery Animals of Greater Manchester with Richard Muirhead.