The police say that the Croydon Cat Killer is not a human, after an investigation into reports of several mutilated cats across South London.
A post-mortem on as many as 25 cats found around Croydon, Catford and the M25, found that most had been killed by impact with a blunt object which the Met believe could be a car. The dead bodies were then mutilated by scavenging animals.
Police are urging the public to contact the RSPCA in the first instance where they have concerns about animal welfare, especially in cases where there is no direct evidence of human involvement.
In November 2015, officers began an investigation into reports from members of the public of mutilated cats, often found with their heads and tails removed, in Croydon and the surrounding area.
There was no evidence that any of the cats had been killed by a human, according to the Met.
In 2016, South Norwood Animal Rescue Liberty (SNARL) arranged 25 post-mortem examinations on cats that had been found mutilated. These were conducted by a veterinary pathologist. The cause of death was found to be blunt force trauma, such as collisions with vehicles. The mutilations were found to have occurred after death, and some of these were thought to have been caused by a sharp implement.
On the basis of these examinations, six cases of cat mutilation were deemed suspicious.
The investigation took almost three years.
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.
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.
The veterinary pathologist who carried out the original post-mortems conducted re-examinations on the six bodies in August 2018. He found puncture wounds not found previously on some of the animals and concluded that some had been potentially scavenged.
Such apparent spates of cat mutilations are not unknown in the UK and elsewhere. Officers were aware of a spate of reported mutilations some 20 years ago which were eventually attributed to predation by wildlife. However the evidence initially provided by the six post-mortem examinations warranted further investigation of the more recent spate.
On Thursday, 20 September, Croydon officers met with SNARL and the RSPCA to set out the investigation’s final conclusion that there is no evidence of human involvement. All of the cases of cat mutilation will be recorded as ‘no crime’.
Frontline Policing Commander Amanda Pearson said: “On average, the Met receives over 1,000 calls each month relating to animals and animal welfare.
“We understand the reason for this – people trust the police to help them when they suspect others have done wrong, fear for their own safety or simply are facing situations that they are unable to handle themselves.
“We will always assist the public in an emergency, but I would urge people to report concerns relating to animal welfare in the first instance to the RSPCA.
“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. In particular, they were following up the six suspicious cases identified by the post-mortem examinations.
“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.”