SCOTLAND Yard has now linked the grisly mutilation murders of more than 400 animals across Britain to a single perpetrator.
Dubbed the “Croydon Cat Ripper” after the south London suburb where he began piling up corpses in 2015, the killer has not limited himself to cats.
Officers from Operation Takahe now believe the same person — or group of people — is also responsible for the murders of scores of rabbits, foxes and swans countrywide.
The cases appear to share a horrifying modus operandi, which involves decapitating, de-tailing and removing the paws of the unfortunate creature before placing its body in a prominent place.
Police have confirmed that the killer struck again at the weekend in Gravesend, north Kent, following the discovery of another mutilated cat. Now they fear its only a matter of time before the perpetrator sets his sights on bigger prey, such as “vulnerable women and girls”.
“We know that there is a link between serial killers and cases of violence against animals,” Detective Sergeant Andy Collin, who is heading Operation Takahe, said.
“The assumption is that this killer gets some form of satisfaction (by killing cats). The fear is that he will end up not getting it. Who will he attack then?”
Scotland Yard has been running Operation Takahe for two years, working closely with the RSPCA and South Norwood Animal Rescue Liberty (SNARL), an animal rescue organisation.
SNARL publishes a death tally on its Facebook page with daily updates and tributes to victims.
SNARL Cofounder Tony Jenkins claims the killing spree dates back to 2015, when he and his partner picked up on similarities among the details of cat deaths showing up in social media.
They noticed that the headless corpses of an increasing number of felines kept appearing staged near schools, parks and sometimes under the windows of their owners.
After consulting veterinarians, pet owners and local residents, they pieced together a map and timeline of the killings and were able to trigger the attention of investigators.
“The police believe that a person or a group of people are responsible for the deaths and mutilations,” Scotland Yard said at the time, although it didn’t want to support the theory of a “serial killer.”
But the public interest in the case helped to mobilise more resources than those usually allotted to animal crimes, including the offer of a reward, which recently doubled to AUD 17,400 thanks to donations from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), for any information that could help capture the killer.
Last month, police released the first description of the killer based on a handful of sightings. They say he is a white man in his forties with short brown hair, dressed in dark clothing and carrying a backpack and a flashlight or headlamp.
He’s about 175cm tall and “probably grew up in Croydon,” police say.
Academics have theorised about the motive behind such monstrous acts.
University of Nottingham forensic scientist Vincent Egan described the suspect as “a mysterious criminal who challenges his ‘dissector’ skills and ability to thwart any surveillance”.
“He must be able to attract the animal, kill it without being scratched, dissect it, place the body in a place where it can be seen — and all this discreetly,” Mr Egan told AFP.
Birmingham University criminologist Dr Adam Lynes theorised that the killer was a low paid worker acting out of jealousy of those better off than him.
“The killer may hold the families in contempt for their lifestyle. He said the killer is likely male and maintains a low skilled job,” he said.
London’s Metropolitan Police warned last month it feared the killer could escalate his crimes to attacking “vulnerable women and girls”.
There have been more than 400 deaths of cats, foxes and rabbits in Greater London, Surrey, Manchester, Sheffield, Birmingham and the Isle of Wight since September 2015 and in most cases the animals have had their heads and limbs removed, before the body parts are returned to their owners or the local area.
Last week authorities linked the decapitation of nine swans in Thamesmead to the Croydon Cat Killer.
In September 2017, there were three cases on a single day. No suspect has yet been arrested.