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I SWAM WITH NESSIE; Robert wins pounds 500 for his monster sighting.

HE had heard so much about her and hoped to see her, but never did Robert Badger even dream that he would touch her.

But yesterday he told of the spine-tingling moments that he swam alongside the Loch Ness Monster.

"I swam out from the jetty, keeping halfway between the bottom and the surface and passed the point where the loch bed drops away sharply to really deep water," said Robert 50, of Castlehead, Paisley.

The factory worker, who won a pounds 500 prize for the sighting from bookmaker William Hill, added: "I was thinking to myself that I should not go out much further when an object materialised out of the gloom in front of me.

"As I got closer I could see that it was the body of a huge creature which was moving from my right to my left in a direction that would take it out of the bay and into the main part of the loch.

"Due to the murkiness of the water and the sheer size of the animal, I couldn't see each end of it.

"But I managed to get close enough to gain an impression of the size of the creature. Her body was rounded and I would estimate at least 20ft in diameter.

"I touched her skin and I remember that it was a rough texture."

His amazing experience came after he went into the 1,000ft deep lake to carry out underwater work on a new boat mooring off Temple Pier, just across the bay from Urquhart Castle near the village of Drumnadrochit.

Robert added: "As I realised what I was seeing and touching, it was then that words from previous reports such as `flesh-eating' flashed through my mind. So I surfaced and swam for the shore as fast as I could. I was terrified and elated at the same time."

One of Robert's companions who was on the jetty at Temple Pier said that the diver "erupted" from the water and was swimming so fast for land that he almost aqua-planed on the surface of the water.

Robert said: "I had difficulty sleeping for days afterwards. When I did, I kept having this recurring dream where I was in the loch and could not swim back to the surface.

"Now you would never catch me putting a toe in Loch Ness now, far less swimming in it again."

Gary Campbell, president of the Loch Ness Monster Fan Club, said yesterday: "This is one of the most fantastic sightings of Nessie that anybody has had the good fortune to have.

"Having met Robert and witnessed the clarity with which he recounts the events of that day, I have no doubt that he is the only man alive who has managed to swim with Nessie."

Graham Sharpe of William Hill - who gave Robert their 1998 award for best Nessie sighting - said: "This must rank as one of the most vivid experiences anyone could have anywhere in the world, never mind Loch Ness."

William Hill are offering odds of 500/1 that there will be conclusive proof of the Loch Ness Monster before the end of this year. Their award is judged each year by the Inverness- based Official Loch Ness Monster Fan Club who consider all reported sightings.

There were 11 reported sightings last year...but she has yet to surface this year.
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Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Mar 7, 1999
Words:562
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