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Comedian Alexei Sayle reunited with missing cat ‘Wilf Mbanga’ on his birthday

08 August, 2013

PIC 1: Left: Alexei with his cat Wilf Mbanga. Right: Political exile Wilf Mbanga
PIC 2: Today presenter John Humphrys

Published: 8 August, 2013
by TOM FOOT

COMEDIAN Alexei Sayle celebrated his 61st birthday with the “best ever” present after his missing cat was returned home safe and sound.

Named after Zimbabwean political exile Wilf Mbanga, the stripy-tailed, long-haired cat vanished three weeks ago after running out of the front door at Mr Sayle’s home in Doughty Street, Bloomsbury.

Mr Sayle contacted the New Journal after putting up missing cat posters around Bloomsbury.

The story was picked up by The Independent and The Times newspapers and even discussed on the BBC World Service.

The good news of Wilf’s return finally came on Monday after a Kuwaiti family staying in Prince Albert Road, Primrose Hill, found the bedraggled cat cowering on their doorstep. Somehow he had managed to cross Euston Road during his three weeks on the run.

The family contacted Mr Sayle and his wife Linda on Monday morning after finding details on the internet.

Yesterday (Wednesday), Mr Sayle said: “I’m 61 today but this has put 10 years on me.”

As for Wilf, he said: “He’s quite skinny, but he’s fine. The family gave him lots of treats and things and seemed really nice.”

Wilf Mbanga – believed to be a Maine Coon – was a stray cat who originally turned up without explanation in the garden of Mr Sayle’s friend John Humphrys, the BBC journalist and famously fearsome Today programme interviewer.

Mr Sayle said: “John is not an animal lover, so we went round and picked him up. He was going to call him ‘Lion’ but we wanted to call him Wilf Mbanga. He said he knew Wilf Mbanga because he used to be the Rhodesia [Zimbabwe] correspondent.”

The real Wilf Mbanga, a journalist critical of the Mugabe regime who lives in London, told the New Journal three weeks ago he was “tickled pink” after hearing Mr Sayle had named his cat after him.

But he said he would not join the hunt because he was allergic to cats and suffered from severe hay fever.

This week, Wilf Mbanga said: “I am delighted Wilf Mbanga has been found. Even in times of distress, we need to laugh at ourselves.”

With world debate focused on the outcome of the Zimbabwean elections and the reinstatement of Robert Mugabe as leader, Mr Mbanga appeared on the BBC World Service on Saturday. But in a surreal few minutes, a newsreader also discussed the missing cat named in his honour.

Yesterday, Ms Sayle’s wife Linda said: “It’s Lexi’s birthday so this is the best present ever.”

Of the missing cat, she said: “God knows what he’s been up to – or how he got across the Euston Road. We will never know. We are all recovering because it has been a very difficult time. We are so grateful to the New Journal. We’re all really pleased it’s turned out well.”

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