Devon

Hunt for Paignton cat killer 'who mutilates pets'

Taiyou the cat Image copyright Yvonne Harrison
Image caption Taiyou's injuries were too severe for treatment and he died a few weeks after being attacked

Animal lovers believe a cat killer has been mutilating their pets after five were attacked in one street in 18 months - with four cats dying.

At least five cats from the same road in Paignton, Devon, have been attacked since the summer of 2017.

The four who died had injuries that included burns, a crushed vertebrae and singed whiskers.

People who live in the area have raised more than £1,200 to offer as a reward in an attempt to find the cat killer.

Yvonne Harrison's cats Ziggy and Taiyou both died within a year after being injured near her home in Roundham Road.

Ziggy was attacked in the summer of 2017 and then again in March 2018, when he died from his injuries.

Taiyou was attacked and seriously injured in November and died on 8 January following complications.

Image copyright Yvonne Harrison
Image caption Ziggy was attacked twice in July 2017 and on 17 March 2018 before he died from his injuries

When Mrs Harrison's husband Phil spoke to neighbours he found there had been at least five victims, including two in the past couple of months.

Mrs Harrison said: "It's heartbreaking to see that they're that sort of mutilated and upset by someone.

"Somebody would have used their love of people and being so sociable to be able to capture them and do something that horrific to them."

Image caption Two of Yvonne Harrison's cats have been killed by the attacker and she is so concerned she is now using GPS to track her third feline

Dr Chris Bamford, from the Bay Vet Group, saw Taiyou whose injuries were too severe for treatment.

"I first noticed when the owners brought them in that he had burnt, singed whiskers," he said.

"That's quite a common abusive injury that we see in cats and from that I then did a full examination and then once I lifted up the tail it was pretty nasty."

Image copyright Yvonne Harrison
Image caption Ziggy before being attacked

All three of the other cats were also from Roundham Road, including Alice, who died after suffering a crushed vertebrae that vets said was not caused by a car crash.

Dr Bamford said the cats' injuries were not consistent with an accident and had "clearly been done with intention by someone or a group of people".

Debbie Johnson who runs the Paignton-based charity Feline Network has helped the people who live there with an online campaign raising funds for a reward.

More than £1,200 has been raised and will go to someone who gives information which catches the culprit.

Mr and Mrs Harrison said they reported their cats' deaths to the police, who did a leaflet drop in the area in November.

The Metropolitan Police launched an investigation into the so-called Croydon Cat Killer in 2015 after a series of reports of mutilated cats in the Croydon area.

During a three-year inquiry detectives received more than 400 similar reports of cats being mutilated across London and surrounding counties.

Twenty-five post-mortem examinations were carried out but in September 2018 police said they found no evidence of human involvement in the deaths and said the injuries inflicted on the cats were "likely to be the result of predation or scavenging by wildlife on cats killed in vehicle collisions".

But animal rescue centre South Norwood Animal Rescue and Liberty, which had worked with the Met on the case, raised doubt over the police conclusion and said it would continue with the investigations alone.

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