In towns across the UK, usually, though not always, located somewhere just off the M25 or the M1 between Orpington and Northampton, in the dead of night, a vicious and ruthless hunter dressed in dark clothing, wearing gloves and probably carrying a torch, prowls the alleyways of housing estates and moves from garden to garden on the lookout for his prey. Much like Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper, 40 years ago, he carries a hammer to stun and incapacitate his victims and a sharp cutting implement to mutilate them.
His strike rate easily exceeds that of any other serial killer in criminal history. He has attacked over 400 times in the last 800 days, meaning that statistically speaking, this deranged killer will be ready to slaughter and maim again either tonight or tomorrow. Though serial killers do sometimes just stop, as the BTK killer Dennis Rader did in Kansas in 1991, there is little to suggest that this predator’s reign of terror will cease until he is caught.
Everything written above is almost certainly true – with one detail omitted – his victims are mostly domestic cats, though he has also attacked foxes and pet rabbits.
It will become apparent I hope upon reading this article that we must ask ourselves whether this detail makes it any easier to read the other facts and be significantly less terrified at the prospect of this person hiding in the bushes of our own garden as we take the rubbish out tonight, or indeed if we ask our children to do so. If you are able to dismiss this threat and furthermore are unconcerned about the welfare of animals, then perhaps you are unaware that many serial killers begin their ‘careers’ by attacking animals and that criminologists consider animal cruelty as one of the most reliable predictors of future violence towards humans.
I am writing about the case of the UK Cat Killer. The perpetrator, described by two presumed but not confirmed sightings, as male, white, in his 40’s, of average height, with short brown hair and possible acne scarring on his face, is believed to lure his victims with treats before bludgeoning them with a hammer. Since little or no blood has been present where the bodies are found, it is thought that the killer takes the animals away to mutilate them, typically removing the head and the tail, before returning to the area to display them in a signature way, either in a public place such as a playground or outside the owner’s home. Sometimes he appears to keep the animals for longer periods, as very recently deceased animals have been discovered despite being missing for a number of days. A possible reason for doing this is that the killer wants to watch the owner’s reaction when they find their dead pet – so he returns to pose the animal when he has the time to sit and wait. An especially sad detail of this case is that the attacker has on occasion returned to the same house, killing more than one pet from multi-cat households.
As an animal welfare advocate as well as a journalist, who is disturbed by the extent of the violence being inflicted upon these poor animals, and frustrated by the quality of the journalism I’ve read on the topic, I decided to do some digging. What I discovered is shocking.
The aspect of the reporting that raised the alarm for me initially was the constant referencing of a small, local animal charity (SNARL) as “leading the investigation” – actually a Google search for their website also provides this description. Many publications have used phrases such as “the cat killer sleuths” to describe the charity, as though it’s really quite a cute story. But just imagine if children were being murdered and the NSPCC were referred to as ‘leading the investigation.’ You don’t have to equate the two to feel like there is something very wrong with this.
The animal killer has been attacking with impunity since October 2015, yet the Police still apparently have no good leads. And the press it seems is not doing its job in holding them to account over their lack of progress.
As if things couldn’t get any worse, over the past few days a man from Northampton who was arrested and then released in relation to crimes apparently unconnected to the UK Cat Killer case ( according to the Police: http://www.northants.police.uk/news/2018-01-08/arrest-connection-arsons-and-cat-mutilations ) has been widely touted in the media as being the man responsible. The extent of the lazy reporting on this matter has been breath-taking to witness. It’s almost as if their only concern is web page hits – but at what cost?
I started my research by contacting SNARL – South Norwood Animal Rescue Liberty. They are essentially a two person team – Tony Jenkins and his partner, Boudicca Rising. Over the course of two phone calls, I spoke to Mr Jenkins for a total of approximately 50 minutes. Those conversations, I’m afraid to report, only served to increase my concern that the investigation into these dreadful crimes is way off track. During our discussions, Mr Jenkins, who says he accompanies the Police to most of the crime scenes, described himself as the ‘acting pathologist’ in the case since the Police, he said, have no training regarding animals. More worryingly, he then claimed to be a main point of contact for the public, saying that he is filtering calls and only forwarding to the Police leads that he thinks are worth following up on.
Needless to say, while I do not doubt that he is well intentioned and doing the best he can, I suspect that Mr Jenkins is not qualified to undertake these roles. So what is going on here? Have the Police outsourced crucial elements of the search for an extremely violent criminal to a member of the public?
Next I contacted the Metropolitan Police, who have launched Operation Takahe in response to the crimes. After a rather cartoon-ish exchange of messages where I was asked who I was writing for three times consecutively in the same email thread – it is apparently beyond the investigative powers of the Met. Police’s press office to scroll down – I did finally receive answers to some of my questions. Again, they are somewhat less than encouraging. Clearly, I have either been provided incorrect information or there is really no investigation worthy of the name taking place.
Firstly, I asked how many hours a week they are spending on the case. They replied that they are spending 10 hours a week on it. Considering that there are often three or four attacks in a week, this amounts to little more than attending the scenes and taking statements from the grieving pet owners.
I also asked if they had any suspects and they confirmed that they did not.
On the question of evidence, such as forensics, I was told that they did not have any and they added that DNA is almost impossible to obtain from cat fur and that they suspected the killer wore gloves because no human skin had been found under the claws of the cats.
Finally, I requested a list of the attacks with the dates and locations, which could be published. I believe it is in the public’s interest to know these details, both to heighten awareness of the threat but also to raise suspicions about the perpetrators movements among his acquaintances in the hope that someone might come forward with information. Alas, I was told that there was no list of attacks available.
Subsequently, I contacted Northants Police as there have been many attacks in their area, and the RSPCA, but neither were able to provide any additional information.
I believe this is a public emergency. There is a psychopath on the loose who could be in your garden right now with a hammer and a knife. He has struck as far afield as Sheffield, Manchester, Margate and Brighton. Nowhere is safe. What will the information that I have reported faithfully in this article look like if tonight he turns his attention to a person instead? It need not be planned that way – he may simply be interrupted while attacking an animal.
It is unthinkable that someone could commit such a violent crime in public so regularly, and for so long, if the appropriate steps were being taken to stop them. I don’t doubt that Police resources are seriously stretched, presumably in part due to cuts in the number of officers imposed by the Government, but I worry that it is all too easy to lower the priority of this case on the premise that it is just about animals. It ought to be obvious that there is potentially a very real threat to humans too and it is vital that we all, the press in particular, demand that this person is caught sooner rather than later.
NB Please note that the animal killer has also struck during the daytime on occasion, so please keep a close eye on your pets at all times.