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Pet owners think the so-called Croydon Cat Killer is back after a feline in the south London area was slain and mutilated.

An MP has called for an investigation into the incident to be reopened, after a probe by Scotland Yard three years ago concluded the serial cat killer did not exist.

Katherine Hughes, 25, was devastated when her pet Theo went missing last month and started searching for him- only for his headless body to be found dumped nearby.

The animal group which led the original pet killing investigation – SNARL – is looking into the slaying which they believe is linked to the Croydon Cat Killer.

Katherine, a student beautician from Catford, Lewisham, said: “I’d be able to manage if he had died in a normal way, but this is really disturbing.

“Tony (from SNARL) said the head and tail are usually brought back a week or so later. I’m constantly looking for them.

“I can’t put him to rest until I’ve found all his body. I don’t think I’ll ever come to terms with this.

“Please keep your cats in at night and be extra vigilant – especially at the moment when there is a killer around.

“I would hate for anybody else to go through the same pain. This killer has to be found.”

Metropolitan Police spent over £130,000 and 2,250 hours during their investigation into the cat deaths, but in 2018 they ruled the serial cat killer did not exist and the mutilations were caused by foxes.

No evidence of human involvement was found in any of the reported cases and there was no CCTV footage, identifiable patterns, forensic leads or witnesses.

CCTV footage that was recovered showed foxes carrying bodies or body parts of cats.

Tony Jenkins, founder of South Norwood Animal Rescue and Liberty, collected the pet, and then contacted Katherine as he had heard about her search for Theo.

The heartbroken cat owner identified her cat from photos, due to his distinctive markings.

The woman then called the police and said they were kind to her, but could not look into Theo’s death due to a lack of CCTV and because the investigation had closed.

She said: “When Tony called back my heart just sank. Tony said the way Theo was killed and the fact that his head and tale were missing linked Theo to the Croydon Cat Killer.

“It is so clearly not a road traffic accident or foxes. Foxes would not take the heads and bring them back. There would be more blood, claw marks or teeth marks.

“If a cat was hit by a car you would see dirt and broken bones. Tony is sure that cats are mutilated with knives.

“There aren’t foxes walking around with knives – I hope not anyway. I suffer with anxiety and depression. Theo really helped me get away from my worries and fears.

“I can’t look at photos of him and I keep waiting for him to come home. It’s just so horrible.

“It’s known that murderers have started off by hurting animals, and move to humans when that’s no longer gratifying. It’s only a matter of time.”

Tony, 56 from Croydon, London, is a retired project coordinator and is now a full-time animal rescuer and investigator.

He said: “The conclusion of the investigation doesn’t explain why these are predominantly happening in the southeast of England but we have cars and foxes over the whole of the UK.

“There was no decrease in these killings in lockdown when there were less cars on the road.

“The investigation only did 42 post-mortems because they are expensive. They closed it after finding fox DNA on five bodies, and puncture marks on five, and because CCTV footage showed a fox carrying a cat.

“Yes foxes do scavenge dead cats, but they would take the body because they would most likely need to feed a family. Vets that examined bodies concluded the cuts were made with a knife and by the same person.”

Tony said he usually posts a description on the SNARL Facebook page whenever a mutilated cat is found and owners of pets contact him.

Because most of the dead and mutilated cats are microchipped, it is easy to match them with owners, he said.

Otherwise, he uses details such as markings on their bodies to identify the cats from owners’ photographs.

“Some people say these are just cats,” Tony added, “but for the owners it’s as devastating as losing a member of the family.

“Previous reports from cat owners and press suggest these killings have been going on for around 20 years. An earlier investigation in 1998 was closed down in 1999.”

The apparent slaying of Katherine’s Theo comes after MP for Carshalton and Wallington, Elliot Colburn, called for the Met to reopen its investigation.

In 2020 he called the conclusion it was down to foxes “fanciful”.