Crime boss's son calls for safe return of missing Berlin 'lion' - as authorities insist video actually shows a wild boar

21 July 2023, 13:05

Remmo, pictured with a lion cub, pleaded for the suspected lioness to be kept safe
Remmo, pictured with a lion cub, pleaded for the suspected lioness to be kept safe. Picture: Instagram/Social media/Alamy

By Will Taylor

Fears of a missing "lioness" near Berlin have been rejected by authorities in Germany who now say it was a wild boar.

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Police have been tracking a suspected big cat after footage emerged of what was claimed to be a lioness in the woods to the southwest of the capital.

But the mayor of Kleinmachnow, Michael Grubert, said nobody has found "a single indication of any lion or wild animal, other than wild boar".

"It's like playing the lottery. You can't keep playing, thinking you'll win - but no, as is, there's no indication it's a lion," he said, adding he had always been sceptical.

But the bizarre tale grew stranger when hours before, the son of the boss of a German crime family pleaded for a possible missing lioness to be returned safely "before some idiot shoots her".

The animal is believed to be on the loose on the southern edge of Berlin, where locals were told to stay indoors and make sure their pets aren't outside.

Although it is unclear if Firas Remmo owns a lioness, he posted on Instagram: "If anyone knows something please tell me then we'll lead the lioness back into her enclosure before some idiot shoots her".

A member of the family is believed to live in Kleinmachnow.

Firas Remmo posted footage of him with a tiger cub in December, calling it his "new favourite pet", which led to a police probe.

The Remmo family is believed to have been involved in drug trafficking, money laundering and fraud and has a long history of violence.

They became notorious after being linked to a €3m theft of a hundred-kilo gold coin from the Berlin Bode Museum in 2017.

It was cut and melted and parts of gold have been found in homes of Remmo family members, alongside bits of glass from the museum. The family has its roots in Turkey and Lebanon, where they fled in the 1980s.

Search efforts were set to be ramped up on Friday.

Professional animal trackers were due to be deployed as residents around Berlin were sent emergency alerts to their phones warning of a “big cat on the loose.”

This morning, 120 extra search personnel were being deployed.

Overnight citizens played a prank by playing a lion’s roar loudly throughout the night.

No zoos, animal parks or circuses in the area reporting they had a lion missing, though.

A huge search operation is under way after a social media sighting of a lion
A huge search operation is under way after a social media sighting of a lion. Picture: Social Media

There are also no known privately-owned lions in the vicinity, according to the mayor of Kleinmachnow, a town of 20,000 inhabitants in Brandenburg where the sighting took place.

Rainer Altenkamp, first chairman of the Berlin Nature Conservation Union (NABU), had already poured cold water on the idea of it being a big cat.

"Even the short, hanging tail with a tassel that is about ten centimetres long and loosely hairy rules out a lioness," he said.

"The other recognisable features, for example the round back and the elongated head, fit very well with a wild boar and speak against a predator.”

Mr Grubert previously said: "We found a fecal sample and a hair sample, also in the area that was important to us. These were sent to the Leibnitz Institute, we are expecting the results tomorrow."

Search efforts continued overnight, with police patrolling the streets in emergency vehicles.

Police had been searching forest in the area of Nikolassee, south west of Berlin.

Residents were told to avoid southern forest areas of Berlin beyond the city limits.


Animal experts and police officers stand in a wooded area in Berlin's Zehlendorf district, Germany
Animal experts and police officers stand in a wooded area in Berlin's Zehlendorf district, Germany. Picture: Alamy

Police were alerted to the animal in Kleinmachnow, just outside Berlin's city limits, at about midnight on Tuesday by people reporting seeing a big cat chasing a wild boar.

Police believed a video provided by callers was authentic.

The lioness is believed to be on the loose in an area south west of Berlin
The lioness is believed to be on the loose in an area south west of Berlin. Picture: Google

Helicopters and 30 police cars took part in the search, which continued on Thursday afternoon.

A vet and two hunters were also involved and a search with two drones and infrared cameras was underway in an area where the animal was spotted.

Police with submachine guns patrol woodland near Berlin
Police with submachine guns patrol woodland near Berlin. Picture: Alamy

People in Kleinmachnow, a town of about 20,000 in a flat, wooded area on the boundary between Berlin and the surrounding state of Brandenburg, were advised to stay indoors if possible - and in any case to refrain from walks and jogs in the woods and to take dogs - at most - for short walks on a lead.

Local authorities left children's nurseries open, though they were asked not to let children outside, and scaled back the town's weekly market.

Police tell a cyclist to not travel through a wooded area where the lion may be on the prowl
Police tell a cyclist to not travel through a wooded area where the lion may be on the prowl. Picture: Alamy

The warning was extended to neighbouring southern areas of Berlin and an alert was sent on an official warning app.

On Thursday afternoon, police in the capital tweeted to say there had been a "possible sighting" of the animal just inside the city limits.

"The primary aim, if at all possible, is to capture the animal, if necessary with an anaesthetic," Kleinmachnow mayor Michael Grubert said.

Police issued an amber alert for the possibility of a lion encounter in this area south of Berlin
Police issued an amber alert for the possibility of a lion encounter in this area south of Berlin. Picture: Berlin police

"Other measures will only be taken on a case-by-case basis by police officers on the ground if their own lives or those of others are endangered."

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