CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Animal rescue worker warns of ‘anti-fox press’ in wake of Croydon cat killer probe

Police believe foxes of having a role in cat deaths mystery

27 September, 2018 — By Tom Foot

A WOMAN running the only fox rescue service in London has question­ed police claims that the nocturnal animals may be responsible for a series of gruesome cat dismemberments.

Karen Heath said foxes were “much maligned” and had been “blamed for something they haven’t done”. Met Police insisted earlier this month that the so-called “Croydon Cat Killer” did not exist. The cat bodies – minus head and tails – left on owners’ doorsteps and in gardens were most likely the work of foxes salvaging roadkill, they concluded.

Ms Heath, who runs Camden-based Mama Cat Animal Rescue, said: “While foxes will definitely pick up road­kill – they are scavengers after all and it is a quick meal – foxes are just not that skilled that they can mimic a knife decapitation.”

Foxes would not dare “take on a cat” one-on-one, she said. “They are no match for a cat, which is a hissing, spitting ball of teeth and claws – far scarier than any fox… I have also dealt with many foxes attacked by cats,” she added.

The New Journal reported in January how the discovery of a severed fox head in a garden in West Hampstead had been included in an independent invest­igation into the Croy­don Cat Killer, sometimes referred to as the M25 Cat Killer due to the location of possible cases. Ms Heath said the animals’ reputation had been tarnished by an “anti-fox press” that was “pro-sensation­alism”, often used images of yawning foxes to make them look dangerous with teeth bared.

Karen Heath

It was also important to distinguish between a “squabble and an attack”, she said, adding that her own cats were not allowed out with the foxes she rescues “because they try to beat them up and the foxes are terrified”.

Ms Heath, who has been rescuing cats and foxes for free for 25 years, runs monthly myth-busting meet-ups about fox behaviour in Camden. Foxes’ biggest problem was mange, she said, but the killer disease could be successfully treated, either with homeopathic or veterinary medicine, concealed in a bread and jam sandwich.

“Foxes have a sweet tooth. The jam just means cats don’t eat it. You have to do it quite religiously, but it can have real results,” she said. Up to 400 cats were at one stage thought to have fallen victim to a devious and cunning cat killer, who slaughtered cherished pets before slicing them up, apparently for trophies. A specific mark – never revealed publicly – left by the killer on dead animals is supposed to have linked suspicious cases.

SNARL, the South Norwood Animal Rescue Liberty group which has coordinated a private investigation, has also disputed the police findings. The Met has been investigating for three years, but on Friday said it now believed there was “no evidence of human involvement”. All the cases of cat mutilation will be recorded as “no crime”, with scavenging foxes most likely to blame.

The Met also said Henny Martineau, head of veterinary forensic pathology at the Royal Veterinary College in Camden Town who carried out post-mortem examinations on three cats and two rabbits, concluded that the mutilations had been caused by predation and/or scavenging, adding that fox DNA had been found around the wound sites on all five bodies.

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