The Croydon cat killer investigation is being shut down by Scotland Yard after nearly three years because the most likely culprits for the mysterious slaughter and mutilation of up to 500 pets across the UK are foxes.
The Metropolitan Police has announced the move after a review of the evidence found no trace of any human involvement. There have been no CCTV sightings, no witnesses have come forward and the crime scenes threw up no forensic leads.
There have been reports that a serial killer was behind the tragedies that have been happening in various parts of the country for nearly three years. In that time police and animal activists have hunted the culprit, who was also described as the M25 cat killer. The suspicion was that this person bludgeoned the animals and then dissected the corpses.
At its peak the police recruited a team of 15 Scotland Yard officers to deploy on the suspect’s trail. There were inevitable references to Jack the Cat Ripper. At one point, animal activists offered a £10,000 reward for the killer’s capture. Animal-lovers like the actor Martin Clunes became involved urging police chiefs to step up the search.
Today Scotland Yard has revealed that the vet who carried out post-mortem examinations of six of the “suspicious cat deaths” had “re-assessed” his findings and now discounted human involvement.
Initially, this veterinary pathologist had concluded that deaths were caused by blunt force trauma, and then the bodies were dissected with a sharp instrument. However, on re-examination he discovered puncture wounds he had previously missed.
Making its announcement, Scotland Yard also highlighted cases that had been investigated by colleagues in the Hertfordshire force, where examinations had been carried out on three cats and two rabbits post mortem in June.
The Royal Veterinary College head of veterinary forensic pathology, Dr Henny Martineau, who was involved in the Hertfordshire inquiry, also came to the conclusion that the mutilations were the result of “predation and/or scavenging”. He also found fox DNA around the wounds on all the bodies he examined.
The latest move is supported by three cases of CCTV coverage that show foxes carrying cat bodies and body parts. One of these dates from June last year, when a cat’s head was discovered in a Catford school playground, and CCTV revealed it had been carried there by a fox.
In July 2017, a witness found the body of another cat with no head or tail next to her home. Again, she checked her property’s CCTV and discovered footage of a fox dropping the cat where it was found.
A recent New Scientist article and other expert opinion highlighted how wildlife scavenges roadkill and often removes dead animal heads and tails.
The Met did not say how much had been spent on the investigation, but emphasised that the officers who worked the case had other duties too. Last year, the force said 10 cat post-mortems had cost £7,500.
In its statement the Met said: “Following a thorough examination of the available evidence, officers working alongside experts have concluded that hundreds of reported cat mutilations in Croydon and elsewhere were not carried out by a human and are likely to be the result of predation or scavenging by wildlife.”
An RSPCA spokesman said the organisation was “pleased that the inquiries have come to a conclusion”.