Londoners Boudicca Rising and Tony Jenkins run a small rescue centre called South Norwood Animal Rescue and Liberty — SNARL. In late 2015, their lives changed forever; in the past eighteen months they have led a criminal investigation into an animal killer and recovered the bodies of 260 murdered cats.
The bodies are mutilated; limbs and tails are removed, and the victims are decapitated. Many body parts are never found, possibly being kept as trophies by the killer. Commonly, the bodies are then displayed; laid out where they will be easily found. The individual responsible is known as the UK Animal Killer. Formerly, he was dubbed the Croydon Cat Killer, as the killings were taking place in that South London borough, but he has since expanded throughout most of England. And yes, ‘individual’ and ‘he’ are correct according to expert police profiling.
There have been incremental escalations in the type of mutilations inflicted on the victims, and the risks taken by the killer, all of which indicate he could become even more dangerous. At the height of this protracted, unprecedented situation, it is imperative to raise awareness.
Talking about their investigation, Boudicca and Tony have said: “It was never our intention to become experts in a serial killer case. In September 2015, we heard reports that a number of cats had been found killed and mutilated in Addiscombe, South London. After establishing facts from local vets, we leafleted an area of three streets that appeared to be the epicentre. Hours later, we came away with information on 15 cases, stretching back a couple of years.
“In the UK, the police don’t investigate animal crime and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty Animals (RSPCA) don’t investigate serial crime; we soon came up against two brick walls in trying to report what we had found out.”
There followed a petition calling for the police to investigate these animal murders, signed by over 30,000 people, which eventually brought about a meeting with the police. Boudicca and Tony said: “We were told that they were interested but needed physical evidence. Some local publicity on historical cases resulted in the discovery of a body being called into us, and then a second, and then they started to come in with sad regularity, along with more historical cases. Our vet was horrified by what he found – a pattern of blunt force trauma injuries and mutilation after death with a sharp implement.”
In December 2015, the serious crime squad started looking into the murders and SNARL were contacted in January 2016 and invited to meet to discuss the situation. A month later, when the RSPCA agreed to get involved and their forensic expert concurred with SNARL’s vet, a multi-agency investigation began.
“It’s a very strange place to be in, as animal activists; working on an ongoing criminal case, hand in hand with a police team, is not something activists do every day,” the partners said.
Cats are not the only victims; domestic rabbits, 55 foxes (to date) and a squirrel with identical injuries have all been examined and linked to the UK Animal Killer. People are much less likely to report wildlife, thinking deaths are natural, and SNARL think he has probably killed many more wild animals than they know about.
“The other equally important part of our role is keeping the public informed through our Facebook page. There’s a fine line between informing the public and encouraging the killer and we agreed in advance with police what content we would publish. We also forward leads to them – often people are more comfortable talking to us about their concerns.
“Our most important role after investigative work is supporting and assisting victim families as they go through the grieving process. Often under-estimated is the effect of the murder on victim’s families — ordinary people who one day wake up to discover they’ve joined a club to which no-one wants to belong. The killer likes to display the bodies near to the homes; many families find the broken, mutilated body of their own cat. It’s additionally harder when you have nothing you can lay to rest because your beloved cat is sitting in a police freezer.
“We also advise on supporting any other animals in the home, some of whom may well have seen or heard their sibling or friend killed.”
Over the past 18 months, there has been a shift in activity from around the South London area: occasional trips to the north of England, the Dartford/Orpington areas of Kent (the South East) and lately, on the South Coast, in Portsmouth and Brighton, interspersed with killings back in South London. SNARL believe his travel is likely to be work related – he’s travelling and killing cats where he goes, not travelling to kill cats: an important distinction.
SNARL advise that if you live in the South East of England, you keep your companion animals inside at night, which is when and where most of the attacks occur.
There is a £10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the UK Animal Killer. This money has been raised by various animal rights groups and individuals. Donations can be made via the website www.snarl.org.uk.
If you find a mutilated animal– call SNARL on 07957 830490 or 07961 030064. If we believe it’s linked, we will encourage you to report it to the police under the police code name Operation Takahe. If you see someone abducting or hurting an animal call 999 and name Operation Takahe.