who is the cat killer?
after 400 deaths – and counting – the culprit still avoids capture...
Most cat owners wouldn’t think twice about letting their pet go outside. Open the door and out goes Mr Whiskers.
Tragedies can happen, of course. A fight with another cat, maybe. At worst, they could be hit by a car.
But the past three years have seen a new threat hit the headlines.
A cat serial killer has butchered hundreds of beloved family pets and then left the mutilated bodies out in the open for the owners to find.
Reports of horrifying cat mutilations first started circulating around south London in 2014.
Now, over 400 deaths later, the killer remains on the loose, with the discovery of a new body being reported every few weeks.
When the cat corpses began to be found in disturbing numbers, a pattern was spotted fairly quickly.
Firstly, the killer seemed to make no effort to hide the bodies. Instead, the corpses were discovered in parks, schools and even in gardens.
Many had also been decapitated, or had limbs or the tail missing, and there was usually very little blood.
A lot of the early cases were reported in Croydon, earning the culprit the nickname of The Croydon Cat Killer. But he had also struck in other areas of London, including Charlton, Peckham, Mitcham, Streatham and others.
It was cat-rescue charity South Norwood Animal Rescue and Liberty (SNARL) that first took 12 cases to the Metropolitan Police.
And in late 2015, an official task force called Operation Takahe was set up to bring the killer to justice.
‘Some people may scoff at this,’ Detective Sergeant Andy Collin, the man in charge of the operation, told the BBC, ‘ but the loss that owners are feeling is very real.’
It was true – the killings have left a trail of sorrow. One cat owner was overwhelmed with grief when the remains of her beloved pet, Scooter, were found on a neighbour’s lawn.
She’d been sliced open from head to abdomen, her tail was missing and her entrails had been ripped out and placed beside her body. Talking about the atrocity, the owner said, ‘I’ve never been jittery in my entire life.’ But now she’s nervous about letting her other cat go outside. ‘I didn’t think to lock my cats up at night,’ she said. ‘But if I had, Scooter would still be alive.’ SNARL founder Boudicca Rising agrees that cat owners concerned about the killer striking in their area are faced with a tough decision.
‘It’s hard to take away a cat’s freedom,’ she said. ‘But I’d advise keeping your pets indoors at night for their own safety.’
Boudicca added that the owners of the dead pets have been affected by a violent crime, and the trauma can be overwhelming.
‘They go through a very tragic grieving process,’ she said.
In fact, through SNARL, many of these owners have managed to form an online support network to help each other through their losses.
In June 2017, SNARL arranged a memorial service for owners who’d lost their pets.
The group gathered at a meeting hall in Croydon to sing songs and light candles for the victims.
Eventually, the killer branched out to other areas, mostly within the M25, the motorway that rings Greater London.
This prompted the use of a new nickname – the M25 Cat Killer.
But the bodies of cats who’d clearly suffered similar fates popped up across the country, even as far away as Birmingham, Manchester, Sheffield and Portsmouth.
Where possible, Boudicca and her SNARL co-founder Tony Jenkins are called to the scene to assist and direct police using their knowledge of the case.
‘The first cat we brought in was called Amber,’ said Boudicca. ‘The vet
Police have spent more than 1,020 hours investigating the killings since December 2015
found that she’d been killed by blunt-force trauma, and her head and tail had been cut off with a knife.’
Other bodies recovered showed similar results.
Thanks to the initial postmortems arranged by SNARL and the RSPCA, police have been able to build up a picture of the killer’s methods.
He strikes mostly in suburban, residential areas, and usually at night.
In several cases, certain types of food have been discovered in the dead cats’ stomachs that the owners definitely hadn’t given them.
The killer clearly lures the animals with food before killing them quickly with blunt-force trauma.
The lack of blood on the scene suggests that he waits for the blood to coagulate before starting to dismember the bodies. The killer’s blood lust apparently also extends to rabbits and foxes, as several were found in a similar condition to the slaughtered cats. SNARL and police investigators are certain that their culprit is a man, if indeed it is just one person.
‘Statistically, it tends to be male serial killers who mutilate their victims,’ said Boudicca.
Possible sightings have described the wanted man as in his 40s with short, brown hair, dressed in dark clothing.
It’s been suggested he may have a job that means he moves around the country.
The National Crime Agency created a profile suggesting that the killer’s reason for attacking felines could come from a deeper problem with women, or a single woman. Det Sgt Collin agrees.
‘Cats are targeted because they’re associated with the feminine,’ he said. ‘The killer can’t deal with a woman or women who are troubling him.’
Dr Adam Lynes, a lecturer in Criminology at Birmingham City University, also drew up a profile of the killer.
He argues that the killer slaughters the cats and displays the carcasses in such a public way to get the attention of the owners and attack the idea of suburban family life.
Dr Lynes asks, ‘Could the Croydon cat ripper be targeting and mutilating these cats as a means to gain the attention of others that they in some way perceive as a source of their own frustrations?’
But with no CCTV footage, and no DNA, the killer still roams free.
Det Sgt Collin admits being ‘massively frustrated’ by the lack of an arrest.
For Boudicca and Tony, it’s a matter of when rather than if.
‘Sooner or later, he [the killer] will make a mistake,’ Boudicca says. ‘We just have to act quickly when he does.’
Poor Amber fell victim in Croydon