The killings began in 2015. Beloved cats began turning up around London, their bodies mutilated. As Phil Hoad writes at Atavist magazine, the cats appeared to have been cut with a sharp knife by a human with increasingly skilled hands. The remains also seemed to have been displayed to cause maximum distress for the owners or those who found them. It was if they were "staged with a morbid playfulness—head, body, and tail lined up in a bloody ellipsis, for instance, or in the shape of a triangle," writes Hoad. Police and officials with the local SPCA shrugged off the killings as the work of an animal predator, but two volunteer pet detectives, Tony Jenkins and Boudicca Rising, made it their mission to keep the matter in the public's eye and to catch the man they considered to be an animal serial killer.
The number of killings mounted, and soon the idea of a Croydon Cat Killer—so dubbed by local media—gained national and even international attention. Embracing fears that anyone who tortured animals might graduate to humans, police formed a task force. Tantalizing leads emerged, suspects were spotted and chased, but no arrests followed. Surveillance video yielded no leads, either, leading to speculation that the killer was somebody who installed CCTV. Police disbanded its task force in 2018, settling on the theory that the killer was a fox. Jenkins and Rising, who say the number of killings is now at 700 or so, aren't buying it. They continue their quest, though they have splintered into two groups. Hoad's story looks at evidence to support both sides—fox or human. But for now, "the question remains: Is there a lone, implacable animal serial killer out there stalking the south of England?" (Read the full piece.)