The infamous Croydon Cat Killer was not a human but a combination of cars and foxes, research recently published by London’s Royal Veterinary College has found.
From 2014-2018, hundreds of mutilated felines were found initially in Croydon and then across the south east of England, prompting residents to allege a cat serial killer was to blame.
The Metropolitan Police launched a three-year, £130,000 probe into the killings but determined in 2018 the mutilations were “likely to be the result of predation or scavenging by wildlife on cats killed in vehicle collisions”.
Over 30,000 residents signed a petition protesting Scotland Yard’s conclusion, but research by the RVC conducted alongside the police investigation and now published in the journal Veterinary Pathology supports the Met’s findings.
RVC conducted post-mortem examinations on 32 cats found dead across London under suspicious circumstances and found no evidence of human involvement.
Through a combination of DNA testing, carcass examination and scientific imaging, researchers concluded the mutilation was the work of foxes.
The report said: “a significant association between cat carcass mutilation and the presence of fox DNA was demonstrated.”
“These findings supported the theory that the cause of mutilation was post-mortem scavenging by red foxes.”
A probable cause of death was established in 81 per cent of examinations and suggested that none of the felines were killed because of mutilation. Cardiorespiratory failure, blunt force trauma and liver failure were among the various causes of death.
RVC’s Dr Henny Martineau, Head of Forensic Pathology, said in a statement: “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.”
Despite the report’s findings, some residents remain sceptical and believe the true Croydon Cat Killer is yet to be found.
The South London Animal Investigation Network, a voluntary organisation based in the area, has been investigating the suspicious feline deaths for six years.
Member Boudicca Rising, 50, said the network doesn’t doubt the potential for foxes to be mutilating cat’s bodies post-mortem, but struggles to believe the hundreds of deaths have been caused by road traffic accidents.
Rising said the report fails to address the suspicious circumstances surrounding the number of cats being killed and inconsistency in terms of location. There’s been too many cases where, based on the sudden halt to killings following public interest, human involvement can’t be ruled out.
“The case kicked off with a number of cats mutilated in the Addiscombe area. That’s when the case got quite intense and the press and police got involved.”
“We’ve not had another cat mutilated in that area since the end of 2016.”
“Foxes don’t read newspapers, they’re not aware of police investigations and there’s absolutely no reason why in Addiscombe, with its two very busy main roads, dead cats would suddenly stop being mutilated by foxes following the launch of an investigation.”
“There were almost ten cases (in Addiscombe) within nine months… if it was foxes, it wouldn’t make sense that there hasn’t been any more in the area since.”
Croydon resident, Chloe Evie, 23, said the way body parts have turned up in front of pet owners’ homes isn’t consistent with animals.
“Foxes are unable to create clean cut lines and don’t have the intelligence to remove cats’ collars and put them in an owners front garden or doorstep,” Evie said.
“It seems like someone is doing this and it’s going to be a big mistake if police don’t look into this further.”
Police investigations into the matter have been halted since 2018.
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.”