In 2001 Leppard (whose real name has been variously listed as Woolridge, Wooldridge or Woodridge), was recognised by the Guinness Book of Records as the most tattooed man on Earth. Although he subsequently lost that title to Lucky Diamond Rich from New Zealand, he retained the title of most tattooed male senior citizen.
Leppard’s entire body, apart from the insides of his ears and in between his toes, was covered in a saffron yellow design flecked with black spots. Even his eyelids were tattooed with piercing blue-green feline irises. To complete the leopard look, he had a set of fangs custom-made by a dentist.
He would often be photographed with nothing on except a small pouch to preserve his modesty – except that it was also covered in leopard spots so that he gave the impression of being entirely naked.
His derelict bothy beside Loch na Beiste had no windows, electricity, heating or gas. The thatch had rotted away, and his makeshift metal sheet roof would not permit him to stand upright. He slept on a bed made from polystyrene board and cooked on a Primus stove, heating up tins of baked beans or ratatouille bought on weekly 5-mile round trips by kayak to the mainland. For 20 years he coped with freezing winters and plagues of midges in summer, but he insisted that life on the island suited him well.
The Leopard Man lived an apparently blameless existence and, though he claimed not to like people, appeared to be remarkably popular among the locals. Therefore it came as something of a shock in 2001 when it was revealed that a self-proclaimed vampire called Manuela Ruda, aka the “Bride of Satan”, then on trial for murder in Germany after sacrificing a man on an oak coffin in front of an altar of skulls, had stayed with him during a holiday in Scotland in 1996, claiming that she had been taught to worship the devil and drink blood during her visit.
Manuela Ruda was later convicted, and Leppard was appalled by the suggestion that he might have inspired her actions.
“She expressed an interest in me and told me she wanted to come and visit,” he told The Observer. “She seemed like an ordinary teenager.” He stoutly denied any satanic proclivities, explaining that he was a Catholic who prayed for three hours every day.
There is some mystery about Leppard’s early life, but it seems that he was born on October 14 1935, either in London or Suffolk.
Before his move to Skye, he spent nearly 30 years of his life in military service, first in the Royal Navy, which he joined aged 15, and later as a colour sergeant in the Rhodesian special forces. “I was based for a time in the Zambezi Valley which was the biggest open zoo in the world,” he recalled. “There were all sorts of animals there. Lions, elephants and giraffes, but no leopards.’
Interviewed in 2001, Leppard explained that after leaving the miltary, he found it difficult to mix with ordinary people: “I decided I wanted to be the biggest of something, the only one of something. It had to be a tattoo... I thought if I get the biggest of something and live in a strange way people might pay me.” The tattoos, etched on to his body over 18 months in the mid-1980s, cost £5,500.
He chose leopard spots not because of an interest in cats, but because they were easy for a tattoo artist to do: “It was a necessary evil to supplement my income support, or latterly my pension.” Despite his tattoos, Leppard felt “no affinity with leopards”.
In 2008, Leppard packed all his possessions into a couple of bin bags and moved into a care home in Inverness, admitting that he was getting too old for the weekly canoe trip to collect his shopping.
Tom Leppard, born October 14 1935, died June 12 2016