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INTREPID members of the Woolsery-based Centre for Fortean Zoology (CFZ) are setting off for The Gambia next month in search of two monsters.

The centre's annual expedition is being carried out in memory of former Woolsery parish council chairman John Downes, whose son, Jonathan, is director of the CFZ.

Mr Downes, who died earlier this year, was a big supporter of the CFZ. Some of the donations received at his funeral are being used to fund the expedition.

The six-person expedition will spend a fortnight investigating stories of a giant sea monster buried on Bungalow Beach and the fearful Ninki-Nanka, a 30-ft lizard said to be a killer of humans.

Cryptozoologist Richard Freeman, who is leading the expedition, thinks it may be a semi-aquatic monitor lizard.

He and his team hope to interview witnesses and venture deep into mangrove swamps on the trail of the beast, alleged to have killed people in the early 1990s.

The expedition is also going to try to dig up remains of a15-feet beast washed up on the shores of The Gambia in 1983. It was said to have been a cross between a crocodile and a dolphin and its carcass was buried above the tide line. The team have maps to identify the spot and hope to uncover the remains and determine what sort of beast it was.

Mr Freeman said: "I think the Ninki-Nanka is a straggler from further south in Africa. This will be the first dedicated expedition to search for the animal.

"As for Bungalow Beach and its mystery carcass, the story has been kicking around for 23 years and n o one has been back to dig up the beach.

"If we dig a hole and find nothing, we have still put the story to bed once and for all.

"If we dig a hole and find the body of an animal, we can then go about identifying it and solving the puzzle. Either way, we get a result."

The expedition's findings will be reported at the annual CFZ Weird Weekend, being held for the first time in the Woolsery Sports and Community Hall in August.

The three-day event is attracting delegates from around the world and a programme of 18 speakers has been lined up.
 
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