Croydon Cat Killer

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Croydon Cat Killer
M25 cat killer map.png
Map of killings within the M25[1]
Details
Victims Over 400 cats[2]
Date 2015–present
Location(s) South London, later the area around the M25 motorway and across England[3]

The Croydon Cat Killer (also referred to by the media as UK Cat Killer or the M25 Cat Killer)[citation needed] is reported to be an individual who has killed, dismembered and decapitated more than 400 cats across England,[2] beginning in 2014 in Croydon.[4][5][6] Reports of cat deaths attributed to the killer have since spread across and around London, and as far north as Manchester.[3]

In 2018 the Metropolitan police stated that they are no longer looking for a cat killer, rather someone that mutilates cats that have already been killed in vehicle collisions.[7] Some experts have expressed the opinion that the Croydon Cat Killer may be an example of a moral panic.[7]

Investigation[edit]

In October 2015 local group South Norwood Animal Rescue and Liberty (SNARL) reported incidents of cat mutilation to the police and RSPCA.[8]

In November 2015 the Metropolitan Police began to investigate the mutilations, under the name 'Operation Takahe' and led by Detective Sergeant Andy Collin.[8]

In January 2016 it was reported that 30,000 local people signed a petition requesting the police conduct DNA testing of the corpses.[9]

By February 2016, the deaths of 10 cats (four in Croydon and one each in Streatham, Mitcham Common, Sutton, Charlton, Peckham and Finchley) had been linked by an examining vet who wished to remain anonymous.[6] However, the police at this time stated that the number of cases was in single digits [6] In February 2016 it was reported that police had yet to find any evidence that the animals were deliberately killed by a human.[8] At this time an investigating vet stated that he found raw chicken in the stomachs of several killed cats and suggested the animals had probably been lured by the killer with the offer of meat.[6]

In March 2016, Det. Sgt. Collin said that the perpetrator might be only mutilating the corpses after the animals had already died and might only face charges relating to public order or theft. He noted that of the six cases being investigated, five of the cats had not been claimed which would make it difficult to bring charges of theft or criminal damage.[10] As of March 2016, no human DNA had been recovered.[10]

In April 2016 it was reported that the RSPCA believed that the deaths were due to blunt trauma, “likely consistent with being hit by a moving vehicle”[4]. SNARL claimed that the animals were killed deliberately, perhaps by being thrown against a wall.[4] By April 2016, SNARL had recorded 50 attacks across Crystal Palace, Mitcham, Streatham, Peckham, Charlton, Richmond, Orpington, and Farnborough in south London, Finchley, Tottenham and Archway in north London, Stepney in the east, and Guildford in Surrey.[4][5][6] SNARL reported that other animals including foxes and rabbits have been attacked in the same way.[4]

In June 2016, SNARL speculated that there had been 100 kills following a decapitated cat being found in Morden.[11] At this time police stated that they had spent 1,020 hours on the inquiry since December 2015.[12]

By July 2016, the media and SNARL had begun referring to the attacker as the "M25 Cat Killer" after new reports, including a cat killed in Whyteleafe, Surrey, suggested the killer was operating around the M25 motorway.[13] After reports of animal deaths in Maidstone, Sevenoaks and seven other locations, SNARL adopted the terms "M25 Animal Killer" and "UK Cat Killer".[14][15]

In September 2017, ArroGen Veterinary Forensics began re-examining some animals to help police and RSPCA to bring prosecutions.[16]

In October 2017 it was reported that the killer was suspected of mutilating over 370 animals.[17] Det. Sgt. Collins stated that it was possible there were copycats. [17]

In December 2017, police linked five cat deaths around Northampton from August to November that year to the same killer,[2] but later police stated the Northampton deaths were not being linked to the others though a 31-year-old man had been arrested.[18]

It was reported in August 2018 that, 3 years after the first report of the Croydon Cat Killer, no evidence relating to the individual who may be committing the mutilations had been found. There was no evidence found of clothing, human DNA or a murder weapon and no CCTV footage has been recovered.[7]

Description of alleged killer[edit]

A description of the alleged killer, claimed to be from Surrey Police, was released via the local group South Norwood Animal Rescue and Liberty (SNARL).[7] The possible suspect was described as being a white man in his 40s with acne scars, dark clothes and short brown hair, who may be wearing a headlamp or carrying a torch.[3][7] It is thought that the attacker or attackers could have worn protective clothes and gloves to avoid getting scratched by the cats.[6] A geographic profile of earlier victims indicates the attacker may have a base in South Norwood.[19]

Det. Sgt. Collins, speaking in 2017 about a possible motive stated stated “Cats are targeted because they are associated with the feminine... The killer can't deal with a woman or women who are troubling him” he added that he was worried that “at some stage he'll escalate or feel brave enough to move on to vulnerable women and girls.”[17] Vince Egan, associate professor of forensic psychology at the University of Nottingham has said: “In some individuals we have seen animal cruelty as part of a broader pattern in which humans are also harmed. It is far more likely that this reflects a rather more banal pattern of anti-social behaviour, such as drunkenness or something that doesn’t go further. But when we have so little to go on you have to keep your mind open.”[20]

Chronology of reported killings[edit]

The following is a list of killings reported by the media that are believed to have been committed by the same individual.

  • June 2016 - SNARL speculated that the cat killer may have claimed the 100th kill following the discovery of a decapitated cat found in Morden.[11]
  • August 2016 - The mutilated remains of a cat were found in Otford.[25] In Bracknell a cat was found which was cut in half.[26]
  • November 2016 - The head of cat was found in a garden in Weybridge.[27]
  • February 2017 - A decapitated cat was found in New Malden, Kingston[28] Crowborough in Sussex, and other locations.[29][30]
  • May 2017 - SNARL reported a fox head left in the Caterham Tesco car park, however a Caterham Tesco spokesperson said they were unaware of this.[31]
  • September 2017 - In the first five days of a week in early September the killer was linked with the deaths of seven cats.[33]
  • November 2017 - A mutilated cat was found in Welling, London.[36]
  • April 2018 - A cat was found beheaded in Walton.[37]

Reactions[edit]

In February 2016, the animal rights charity PETA offered a £5,000 reward (raised from an initial £2,000 in December 2015) to anyone providing information to the police that leads to the arrest and conviction of the serial cat killer (or killers).[9][40]

Public figures local to Croydon such as Martin Clunes, Dermot O'Leary and Caroline Flack used their social media accounts to raise awareness of the crime in the hope it leads to an arrest.[41] In an email to Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, actor Clunes wrote, "As someone who shares my home with several four-legged companions I read with horror that some of the cats had been decapitated, disemboweled or dismembered – this is the stuff of nightmares."[42]

In May 2018, Vice Media released a half-hour documentary about the UK cat killer and SNARL.[43]

Scepticism[edit]

In July 2018, Stephen Harris, retired professor of environmental sciences at the University of Bristol, who had studied fox behaviour for 50 years [7] wrote an article in New Scientist. He asserted that there is no "killer" and the pattern of blunt-force trauma followed by removal of the head and tail once the blood has congealed is consistent with road traffic accidents then scavenging by foxes.[44] In the 1990s there was a similar panic following the discovery of dozens of cat deaths in Greater London. The RSPCA sought Harris’s advice at this time. [7] The same events led to the Metropolitan police opening Operation Obelisk in 1998. However, they quietly dropped the case in 1999 after Harris inspected several cats. He concluded that they had been killed by cars and mutilated by foxes.[7] Harris stated; “We have known for decades that foxes chew the head or tail off carcasses, including dead cats,”[7]

Parallels have been drawn between the Croydon Cat Killer and moral panics, in which public fear and lurid headlines amplify perceptions of danger which puts pressure on authorities to act.[7] Richard Ward, lecturer and historian of crime and the reporting of crime at the University of Exeter has stated that the creation of Operation Takahe appears to be the result of such a moral panic.[7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Hartley-Parkinson, Richard (25 April 2016). "Croydon Cat Killer's trail of destruction: Yet another pet has been slaughtered". Metro. Retrieved 14 October 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c "Five Northampton cat deaths linked to 'Croydon cat killer' probe". BBC News. 2017-12-01. 
  3. ^ a b c Siddique, Haroon (2017-08-31). "Police issue description of 'Croydon cat killer'". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-09-02. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Doward, Jamie; Supple, Emma (April 23, 2016). "London cat killer mystery deepens as charities investigate 100 animal deaths". The Observer. Retrieved April 24, 2016. 
  5. ^ a b Collinson, Anne; Hague, Tim (27 January 2016). "Serial cat killer strikes again in Croydon taking total up to over 30 animals". BBC. Retrieved 15 February 2016. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f Sitala Peek (19 February 2016). "'Croydon cat killer': Animals lured with raw chicken, vet says". BBC. Retrieved 19 February 2016. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Usborne, Simon (2018-08-08). "The 'Croydon cat killer' hunt has lasted three grisly years. But is he man or myth?". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-08-08. 
  8. ^ a b c Booth, Samantha (February 25, 2016). "Exclusive: Police have more questions than answers in hunt for 'Croydon Cat Killer'". Croydon Advertiser. Archived from the original on February 26, 2016. Retrieved April 24, 2016. 
  9. ^ a b Max Shirley (12 January 2016). "Reward for capture of Croydon 'cat killer' increased to £5,000". The Independent. Retrieved 15 February 2016. 
  10. ^ a b Booth, Samantha (March 1, 2016). "Croydon Cat Killer: Cat mutilations after accidental death are not animal cruelty crimes, police say". Croydon Advertiser. Retrieved April 24, 2016. 
  11. ^ a b Dyer, Chris (2016-06-02). "Has the 'Croydon Cat Killer' claimed 100th victim?". Retrieved 2016-06-28. 
  12. ^ "Croydon cat killer linked to seven animal murders this week alone". 9 September 2017. 
  13. ^ Alexander, Stian (2016-07-13). "Croydon Cat Killer has widened brutal spree around the M25, say police". Retrieved 2016-08-07. 
  14. ^ Elvey, Suz (17 August 2016). "Has 'Croydon Cat Killer' killed pet in Otford, near Sevenoaks?". Kent Online. Retrieved 19 August 2016. 
  15. ^ "New attack linked to 'Croydon Cat Killer'". Retrieved 2016-08-21. 
  16. ^ Grierson, Jamie (2017-09-29). "'Croydon cat killer': forensic science lab to re-examine deaths". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-10-01. 
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  18. ^ "Cat deaths not linked to Croydon killer". 15 June 2018. Retrieved 15 June 2018 – via www.bbc.com. 
  19. ^ "M25 Cat Killer Geographic Profile". Geographic Profiler. Retrieved 2017-01-11. 
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  21. ^ "Fears are growing as the Croydon cat killer casts a wider net". The Independent. 2016-02-26. Retrieved 2018-01-08. 
  22. ^ "'We feel totally violated': Decapitated pet found in Kingston believed to be latest victim of cat killer". Surrey Comet. Retrieved 2018-01-08. 
  23. ^ Doward, Jamie; Supple, Emma (2016-04-23). "London cat killer mystery deepens as charities investigate 100 animal deaths". The Observer. ISSN 0029-7712. Retrieved 2018-01-08. 
  24. ^ "Decapitated pet could be work of Croydon Cat Killer". Kent Online. Retrieved 2018-01-08. 
  25. ^ "Has notorious cat killer struck again?". Kent Online. Retrieved 2018-01-08. 
  26. ^ "New attack linked to 'Croydon Cat Killer'". ITV News. Retrieved 2018-01-08. 
  27. ^ Smurthwaite, Tom (2016-11-04). "Animal charity claims M25 cat killer 'has struck again' in Surrey". getsurrey. Retrieved 2018-01-08. 
  28. ^ "Fears 'Croydon Cat Killer' has returned to Kingston as decapitated pet is found in New Malden". Surrey Comet. Retrieved 2018-01-08. 
  29. ^ "Fears the 'Croydon Cat Killer' may have struck in Sussex". Kent Live. 2017-02-01. Retrieved 2017-03-02. 
  30. ^ "Fears 'Croydon Cat Killer' has struck after more pets found dead". Croydon Advertiser. 2017-02-25. Retrieved 2017-03-02. 
  31. ^ "Fox cub has head cut off and left in Tesco car park in Caterham". Surrey Mirror. 2017-05-08. Retrieved 2017-05-09. 
  32. ^ Mirror.co.uk (2017-08-27). "Croydon cat killer breakthrough as 'fleeting figure' spotted near crime scene". mirror. Retrieved 2018-01-08. 
  33. ^ "Croydon cat killer linked to seven animal murders this week alone". Metro. 2017-09-09. Retrieved 2018-01-08. 
  34. ^ "Pet owners warned after cat found mutilated". Kent Online. Retrieved 2018-01-08. 
  35. ^ Clugston, Harriet (2017-10-24). "M25 cat killer may have struck in Hertfordshire as pet's mutilated body found". hertfordshiremercury. Retrieved 2018-01-08. 
  36. ^ "Bexley pet owners warned after Croydon Cat killer strikes again". News Shopper. Retrieved 2018-01-08. 
  37. ^ Brock, Alexander (2018-04-05). "Warning to keep pets inside after mutilated cat found in Walton". getsurrey. Retrieved 2018-04-05. 
  38. ^ "Richards, Martin 16/03/18 - UK animal killer strikes in Southampton for first time as owners fear for safety". Daily Echo. Retrieved 2018-06-13. 
  39. ^ "Croydon cat killer 'may have claimed his 400th victim'". Metro. 2018-06-20. Retrieved 2018-06-27. 
  40. ^ "PETA Offers £5,000 Reward to Help Catch 'Cat Ripper of Croydon'". PETA UK. Retrieved 15 February 2016. 
  41. ^ Hannah Al-Othman (24 January 2016). "Croydon Cat Killer: Celebrities join the fight to catch the culprit". The Standard. Retrieved 15 February 2016. 
  42. ^ Virginia Blackburn (12 February 2016). "The hunt for the Croydon serial cat killer". The Daily Express. Retrieved 15 February 2016. 
  43. ^ "Meet the Pet Detectives Hunting for the Croydon Cat Killer". Vice. 2016-03-14. Retrieved 2018-08-10. 
  44. ^ Harris, Stephen (July 11, 2018). "Prolific 'M25 serial killer' beheading cats is an old feline foe". New Scientist.  (subscription required)