The first description has been released of a suspected serial cat killer who has eluded police for almost two years.
The culprit is behind the death and mutilation of about 250 cats, as well as dozens of foxes and rabbits, since October 2015, according to South Norwood Animal Rescue and Liberty (Snarl).
He was originally known as the “Croydon cat killer”, but as bodies began to turn up in other areas of London and beyond the capital, the charity urged people to drop the label. He then became known as the “M25 cat killer” but attacks have since occurred as far afield as Manchester, Birmingham, Brighton and the Isle of Wight.
The description of the individual believed to be behind all of the attacks has been published on the Snarl website. He is said to be a white man in his 40s with short brown hair, dressed in dark clothing, possibly with acne scarring to his face. It also says he may be wearing a headlamp or carrying a torch.
Snarl’s co-founder Tony Jenkins said the description had been shared with his organisation by Surrey police and was based on witnesses to three recent cat killings in Caterham, Surrey.
“It matches similar descriptions from other areas,” said Jenkins. “We’ve been working on this case since October 2015, going up and down the UK, tracking the bodies he leaves behind. I am very hopeful it’s a major breakthrough.”
Anyone who sees the suspect is advised to call 999 and quote Operation Takahe but not to approach him.
Jenkins said: “He is obviously carrying at least one knife, so if anyone does approach him they’re putting themselves in danger.”
He said emotions were running high. The Snarl website warns the attacker to hand himself in “before members of the public get hold of you”. But Jenkins cautioned that the person in the description may not be guilty and that people should not jump to conclusions if they saw someone offering toys or food to cats.
In one recent incident, a cat was found without its head and tail in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire. The tail of another cat was found in the same spot. Another cat was found mutilated in Northamptonshire on Monday and another tail was found near a children’s playground in a park in Ewell, Surrey, this week.
Jenkins said that postmortems, carried out on about 40 cats before the RSPCA – which was funding them – ran out of money, had proved that the same person was behind the attacks, as did distinguishing marks on the corpses. “Unfortunately, I have seen most of the bodies and there are some signature injuries which allow us to link them,” he said.
The charity is so concerned about the rising death toll that it is urging people not to let their cats out at night, when most of the killings have taken place. A message on the website reads: “We are not taking this step lightly. This is a warning for cat owners from Manchester down to the South Coast. Please keep your cats indoors at night until further notice and during the day if you can.”
The animal charities Peta UK and Outpaced are offering a reward of £10,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person “responsible for the killing and mutilation of cats and foxes”.