‘He’ll move onto humans next’: Meet the man on the hunt for the Croydon Cat Killer
‘The police only started their investigation after we brought them 10 bodies’
The saga of the so-called “Cat Ripper of Croydon” began in the South London borough late last year, when cat owners began finding their pets murdered and mutilated in their own front gardens.
Since then, over 100 cats have been found murdered, mutilated and left on display for their owners to find. At the forefront of it all has been Tony Jenkins, who along with his partner Boudicca Rising runs the South Norwood Animal Safety and Liberation charity (SNARL).
“When we first heard about it, we tried to speak to the police,” Tony says: “We were so angry. Someone locally was harming animals, and no-one was doing anything about it. So we took it on ourselves to start investigating.”
SNARL were the first to bring the killings into the public eye last October, and have since collected the bodies of at least 70 murdered cats – and they say they’re aware of another 30. With another 100 historical cases around the UK possibly linked, Tony estimates around 200 animals may have fallen victim to the killer; or two a week, every week, over the last two years.
Initial attempts were unfruitful, as there were no bodies to be examined. Then, out of the blue, a local man got in contact: “This guy found his cat in the woods across the road with its head and tail cut off,” Tony says: “He’d seen us in the local paper, so he came to us.”
What followed would lead to a large-scale police investigation, of which Tony and Boudicca were front and centre: “A post-mortem came to the conclusion that the cat had been killed with a blunt-force trauma and then mutilated by a human with a heavy-bladed knife.
“That’s how it all started. By the time we had 10 bodies the police mounted a serious investigation, because it was obvious by that point that we were dealing with a serial cat killer.
“The RSPCA eventually got on board as well, which was a bit of a coup. Previously they’d been telling victims that foxes were to blame, but foxes rarely attack cats – and when they do, they don’t cut their heads clean off.”
— PETA UK (@PETAUK) January 17, 2016
“It’s taken over our lives, to be honest. We get a call almost every day, normally to murdered cats but recently to foxes as well. At least three have been killed in the same way as the cats, as well as a couple of rabbits.
“That’s the scary thing, really. It basically seems like he’ll kill anything he can get his hands on.”
So what are his hallmarks? “He likes to get the cat and kill it with blunt force. We think he’s clubbing them, or swinging them against a wall, or using a baseball bat – a hard kick, a boot drop, maybe.
“Then he’ll usually take a part. Sometimes it’s just the head, sometimes it’s the head and the tail, sometimes just the tail. A couple of times the cat has basically been cut in half.”
The missing parts of the cats are very rarely recovered, but the bodies left behind are displayed for all to see. “We don’t think his actual thrill is killing the cats,” Tony says: “We think he gets his kicks out of mutilating them and putting them on display.
“Sometimes he’ll leave them on their doorstep, sometimes in their garden – sometimes he gets it wrong and puts it in their neighbour’s garden. He wants to cause maximum distress. There are one or two that have been put in the bedroom window – so you wake up, pull open the curtains and there’s your precious cat lying in the driveway with no head.”
“A lot of these people regard their cats as their babies. For them, it’s almost like losing a child, so it’s quite horrific – and we’re dealing with the fallout of that. We’re still in contact with a lot of them: we’ve actually put a few of them in contact with each other as a kind of victim support group.”
Mutilated cats have been reported everywhere from Bristol to Liverpool, and signs point to them all being killed by the same man. “If you asked five different people to cut the head off a cat, they’d probably do it in different ways,” Tony says: “Yet all the ones we’ve recovered have been decapitated in almost exactly the same way.”
Post-mortems indicate the type of blade used correlate to it being a single perpetrator, which sightings suggest is a middle-aged white male.
With killings now being reported around the country, the SNARL team are trying to deduce whether it really is all one man: “On Sunday morning, a cat was killed in Leytonstone. Then one was killed on Sunday evening in Manchester – then another in Clapham on Monday. You start to wonder whether he’s done all of them.
“We can’t rule out two people working in tandem; maybe one person catching and killing the cats, and the other one cutting them up. The fact is, it’s either one person, or someone who’s taught someone else.
“Maybe it’s a master and apprentice. Or maybe we’re looking at copycat killers.”
The killer’s net is widening, and the frequency of the attacks seems to be increasing. Tony estimates they recovered around 15 bodies in June alone, with two already having been reported this week. He says: “There do seem to be more, but perhaps the increased reporting and press coverage of the so-called ‘Croydon Cat Killer’ has led to people being more likely to come forward.
“The worry, though, is that he’s upscaling. Think about it: most serial killers throughout history have started off killing animals. Even those two young boys in Liverpool who killed Jamie Bulger, they’d been killing rabbits and cats prior to that.
“If we don’t stop this guy soon, we’re worried he may soon move onto humans too.”
— London News (@DaiIyLONDON) April 23, 2016
If these really are all the acts of one man, he’s elusive to say the least – and he’s more intelligent than he lets on. “We’ve ruled out mental illness,” Tony says: “My own brother has schizophrenia and I’ve worked with people with mental illness for years – most people with mental health issues tend to be quite disorganised and dysfunctional to a point.
“This guy is very clever, very careful, very organised. He’s not leaving any clues, he’s obviously wearing gloves, he’s avoiding CCTV – he knows how not to get a caught.”
So how do you catch a cat killer? Tony advises vigilance, especially at night: “If you see anyone suspicious trying to coax a cat, phone the police or phone us: the police may not act on it, but we can.
“That might be the only way we’ll catch him – someone seeing something suspicious and alerting the police, in the hope that they’ll turn up and catch him in the act. He’d most likely have a knife on him, so there’s no getting out of that.
“My best advice would be for people to make sure they keep their cats indoors at night. If he can’t find any victims, he’ll start getting desperate – and when he starts getting desperate, that’s when he’ll start making mistakes.”
If you find anything suspicious which you think may be related to the case anywhere in the UK, such as a body or body parts, you can call SNARL on 07961 030064 or 07957 830490