A Level 5 Public Awareness Alert has been issued for the entire county of Essex this evening after two carnivorous Chilean hunting butterflies escaped from Tropical Wings Zoo near South Woodham Ferrers.

According to a police spokesperson, the distinctive and ‘potentially lethal’ butterflies should not be approached under any circumstances, and ten police helicopters have been scrambled to lead the search efforts.

In a hastily-organised press conference this evening, Community Outreach PC Nigel Papy-Lon said: ‘A member of the public from South Woodham Ferrers called 999 just after 4pm this evening to report that two large butterflies had mauled her pet cat to death in her back garden. By the time we had arrived at the scene, the insects had flown off and this led to us initiating Operation Van Outen – this is our standard emergency procedure when potentially lethal animals are on the loose in the county of Essex.’

‘We immediately sent a team to Tropical Wings Zoo to do a butterfly head count, and this was incredibly difficult as they all kept fluttering about all over the place. Once the head keeper had managed to calm them down, we found that their two Chilean hunting butterflies were missing. There are only ten of them left on the planet, and they are the only butterfly species that don’t eat meat – they usually manage to exist with their herbivorous counterparts with a varied diet and the occasional cuts of chicken.’

‘While they are in their tropical and temperature-controlled indoor environment, they are docile and perfectly safe to have around families and young children. However, sudden exposure to the colder air of the British October climate would have kicked them out of this placid state of mind, and this is why they would have instantly reverted to their genetically-programmed ‘hunter’ state.’

‘We asked to view CCTV footage, and we noticed that a romantically-involved couple had left both entry doors open at the same time, in spite of the sign that tells people not to do this. We observed that the two butterflies flew away within seconds, and another camera caught them heading away from the A130.’

‘We are urgently informing all households that everyone should remain indoors with their windows closed until the ‘all-clear’ has been given. Anyone who spots the two butterflies should call the police immediately, and they both have an 11-inch wingspan with blue, red and yellow flashes. Also, they make a hissing noise when they feel threatened or they eat fruit that is high in citric acid.’

‘Anyone who reports a sighting should retreat to a safe distance. If necessary, they are attracted to raw meats such as smoked bacon rashers and diced pork, and this is an effective method of distracting them while you get your pets indoors.’