The Croydon Cat Killer – believed to be responsible for a spate of mutilated cats between 2014 and 2018 – does not exist, according to new research.
There was no human involvement in the mutilation of more than 400 cats, said the researchers.
It happened across various locations in London – primarily Croydon – over the four year period and speculation suggested that a human ‘cat killer’ may have been at large.
READ MORE: Infamous Croydon Cat Killer is ‘back’ after dead cat left on owner’s lawn
Some feared that the alleged killer could become a threat to human safety.
The speculation, driven largely by concerned members of the public, led the Metropolitan Police to launch an investigation into the mutilations, named ‘Operation Takahe’.
A team of researchers examined the bodies of 32 mutilated cats that had been brought to the police by members of the public between 2016 and 2018 with the Met and Hertfordshire Police.
Experts took swabs to analyse carcasses for the presence of fox, dog and badger DNA and performed full post mortem examinations of the carcasses.
The results found fox DNA was present on many of the carcasses and there was no evidence that supported human involvement in their mutilation.
Through a close examination of the carcasses, Henny Martineau, head of veterinary forensic pathology at the Royal Veterinary College, and her team were also able to establish that the mutilation pattern of the cats examined was similar to the scavenging pattern of foxes on lambs.
Other probable causes of death were also identified, ranging from car crashes to liver failure and the ingestion of antifreeze.
Eight of the dead cats were found to have suffered from heart disease.
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Dr Martineau said: “As veterinary professionals, we know how difficult it is for an owner when a beloved pet passes away, particularly in circumstances that can seem mysterious or suspicious.
“While the public’s concern around the safety of their pets is totally understandable, our investigation into the deaths of these cats demonstrates the importance of an evidence-based approach to investigating incidents like this.
“The narrative of the so-called ‘cat killer’ was a good example of the human tendency to pick out what we want from data, demonstrating our inclination to stop investigating when we think we have made a major discovery or noticed a particular pattern.
“It is the job of scientists – in this instance, veterinary pathologists – to identify and overcome such confirmation bias.”
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Stuart Orton, East Hertfordshire Chief Inspector, said: “This is, of course, an incredibly emotive subject and any injury to, or loss of, pets causes a lot of distress for owners.
“While the subject was a matter of much speculation at the time online, we now believe that there was no human involvement.
“I hope that this new analysis provides some comfort to the owners who previously believed that their beloved pets had been targeted maliciously.
“It also provides law enforcement colleagues with the ability to review any future investigations from a scientifically supported and evidence-based approach.”
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