Croydon’s cat killer: not a “serial killer” but foxes behind cat mutilations in London, study finds
Foxes, not a human serial killer, were responsible for a wave of mutilated cats found in London between 2014 and 2018, according to a new study that provides crucial evidence on the so-called ‘Croydon cat killer’ case .
The research, published in the journal Veterinary pathology Tuesday, supports the conclusion drawn by the Metropolitan Police that there was no human involvement in the mutilation of the affected cats.
During the four-year period between 2014 and 2018, 400 cats in various locations in London were killed.
Media speculation at the time had suggested that a human “cat killer” was on the run in south London, and citizens feared the alleged killer posed a threat to human security.
Public concerns sparked a police investigation called “Operation Takahe”.
But following a forensic DNA analysis of 32 mutilated cat corpses that were brought to police by members of the public between 2016 and 2018, researchers, including Henny Martineau of the Royal Veterinary College, said there was no evidence supporting human involvement in the mutilations.
Scientists took swabs to analyze carcasses for fox, dog and badger DNA, performed comprehensive post-mortem examinations of the carcasses, and found a clear link between mutilations and the presence of DNA fox on dead cats.
They said there was also a clear link between puncture wounds – consistent with scavenging by carnivores – and deceased cats.
Based on the analysis, vets said the mutilation patterns of the cats examined were similar to the straying patterns of foxes on lambs.
“Together, these findings supported the theory that the cause of the mutilation was post-mortem cleansing by red foxes (vulpes vulpes), ”The scientists wrote in the study.
In cat carcasses that were not associated with predation, they said other causes of death were possible. These ranged from traffic accidents and liver failure to ingestion of antifreeze.
Eight of the 32 cats that died suffered from heart disease, according to the study.
“While public concerns about the safety of their pets are understandable, our investigation into the deaths of these cats demonstrates the importance of an evidence-based approach to investigating incidents like this. Dr. Martineau, chief of the veterinary forensics department at the Royal Veterinary College, said in a statement.
“The account of the so-called ‘cat killer’ was a good example of the human tendency to choose what we want from data, demonstrating our tendency to stop investigating when we think we have made a major discovery or noticed a problem. particular model. It is the job of scientists – in this case, veterinary pathologists – to identify and overcome such confirmation bias, ”she added.
Research has shown the important role veterinary pathologists can play in assisting law enforcement investigations, especially when there is speculation or conjecture surrounding the procedures, the scientists said.
“While the subject was the subject of much speculation at the time online, we now believe there was no human involvement,” said Stuart Orton, Chief Inspector for East Hertfordshire, in a statement.
“I hope this new analysis will provide some comfort to owners who previously believed their beloved pets had been maliciously targeted. It also gives law enforcement colleagues the opportunity to review any future investigation from a scientifically substantiated and evidence-based approach, ”Mr. Orton added.