- Charity working with the police describes findings as ‘a surprise’
- ‘Evidence... does indicate human involvement’
A police investigation into hundreds of reported cat mutilations in Croydon and elsewhere across the country has concluded the killings were not carried out by a human.
The Met Police, working with the RSPCA and local charity South Norwood Animal Rescue Centre (SNARL) began the probe in November 2015 after a number of animals were found with their heads and tails removed in the Croydon area.
Small animals, including rabbits and foxes, have since been found dead and mutilated across the country and a £10,000 reward was offered to anyone who with information that could lead to the arrest of the so-called Croydon cat killer.
But on Thursday the Met announced the mutilations are likely to be the result of predators or scavenging by wildlife and that there is no evidence of human involvement.
In 2016, SNARL arranged 25 post-mortem examinations on mutilated cats which found the cause of death to be blunt force trauma, such as collisions with vehicles. The mutilations were found to have occurred after death, the force said.
Officers also took note of expert opinion – including a recent, widely reported New Scientist article – which highlights how wildlife is known to scavenge on road-kill, often removing the heads and tails of dead animals.
A Met Police spokesman said: “No evidence of human involvement was found in any of the reported cases. There were no witnesses, no identifiable patterns and no forensic leads that pointed to human involvement. Witness statements were taken, but no suspect was identified.
“In three instances where CCTV was obtained, footage showed foxes carrying bodies or body-parts of cats.”
- A woman in north London described how in April 2017, after finding the mutilated body of a cat in her garden, she checked CCTV and saw a fox carrying the cat’s head into her garden.
- In June 2017, a cat’s head was found in a school playground in Catford. CCTV showed a fox carrying the head into the playground.
- In July 2017, a witness found the body of a cat with no head or tail next to her property. Suspecting that the cat had been placed there, she checked CCTV and saw a fox drop the cat in the position in which it was found.
Similar cases were investigated by Hertfordshire Constabulary. Dr Henny Martineau, the Head of Veterinary Forensic Pathology at the Royal Veterinary College, carried out post-mortem examinations on three cats and two rabbits in June 2018. She concluded that the mutilations had been caused by predation and/or scavenging, and highlighted that fox DNA had been found around the wound sites on all five bodies.
Frontline policing commander Amanda Pearson said: “The decision was made to allocate a large number of similar reports of mutilated cats to the officers who were investigating the initial spate of such allegations.
“While this increased the workload of those officers, it significantly reduced the resources that would have been required for different officers in different units to record and assess each allegation separately.
“It is this collating of reports that enabled officers to work with experts and reach the conclusion that no further police investigations are required into any of the allegations relating to mutilated cats.”
Meanwhile, a message posted to the official SNARL Facebook page said: “As you can imagine, this morning’s announcement has come as a surprise and we will be taking advice on how to move forward.
“We consider that the evidence we have gathered over the last three years does indicate human involvement and there is expert opinion to back this up. Over the last three years, we have discounted over 1500 incidents as non-human related.
“The police have said that they will continue to investigate incidents where there is clear evidence of human involvement. Our priority at the moment is the victim’s families and we will release a further statement in due course.”
Responding to the news, Cat Protection’s head of clinical services, Dr Vanessa Howie, said: “We would always encourage people to keep their cats in at night. This reduces the risks of fighting, infectious disease and road traffic accidents. Cats should also be neutered as it makes them less likely to roam or fight with other animals.
“For those concerned about their cats coming into contact with foxes, we would also recommend creating a cat-friendly garden which will encourage cats to stay closer to home. For example, by providing some hardy plants planted close together to create nooks and crannies for hiding, planting cat mint (for catnip) as well as creating a toileting site by freshly digging over a border close to the house. Owners can also discourage foxes by not leaving food out in their garden (if leaving food out for birds place it on a bird table well away from a fox or other animal’s reach) and ensuring dustbin lids are secure.”