Tony Jenkins and Boudicca Rising jointly run a humble animal rescue centre from their homes in Croydon, South London.
At South Norwood Animal Rescue and Liberty – or SNARL as it is affectionately called – there was a time when rescuing and rehoming unwanted cats was the main remit.
But when, in 2014, cats in the area started turning up dead – and often dismembered – the duo dedicated themselves to hunting the deranged perpetrator.
Since then they have travelled the country, from the Wirral to the Isle of Wight, consoling distraught families and picking up bodies – of foxes and other pets as well as cats – all in search of a psychopath they have dubbed the “UK animal killer”.
“We heard about mutilations in the area, a few cats found with knife wounds, one had its head cut off. We started investigating and very quickly found out this was happening in other areas,” said Tony.
Lulu was found mutilated in North Watford
“We heard of cases in Bristol and Reading that made the local press, and in one area of Sittingbourne six cats were found. We started realising he was going all over Manchester, Birmingham, Sheffield, the Wirral.
“Before we knew it we were collecting bodies. When we got to about six, the police started Operation Takahe.”
Two-year-old Chewy was found dead in South Oxhey in January
Operation Takahe is a major crimes operation set up to catch the culprit also referred to as the Croydon cat ripper and the M25 cat killer.
There is currently a £10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and successful conviction of the killer.
Despite the combined work of SNARL and the police, leads have been hard to come by.
With police resources stretched and other serious crimes being committed all the time, it is often left to Tony and Boudicca to do much of the legwork.
“We have to lead it to be honest – we have to keep on top of this. It has become a full-time job for me,” adds Tony
“We fear that if we don’t continue what we do then people will lose interest and it will fall apart. We need to keep the publicity going because it can’t be forgotten.”
As well as the recent rabbit incident in Oxhey Park, a back garden in Watford was also broken into and an old cat killed and mutilated. In the last few years, several dead animals have been found in the Watford area bearing the hallmarks of the killer.
The pet sustained wounds consistent with the M25 cat killer
Tony says a profile of the culprit has been compiled by the police, with forensic evidence suggesting the killings are the handiwork of one person.
He added: “We know he is going into back gardens to kill cats. I think that is part of his thrill. I might be wrong but I feel killing the animal is perfunctory.
“We think he waits around and watches the owners’ reactions. He puts the bodies near schools, next to the children’s parks, next to bedroom windows and door steps.
“Hopefully one day he will make a mistake. We can’t advise anyone to approach him but we need people to be vigilant, get as much info as you can, a photo if possible or registration number of a car, and that is how we get lucky.”