For years the ‘Croydon cat killer’ has been linked to the deaths of hundreds of mutilated animals - including several pets in Portsmouth.
But now police have ruled that the suspected serial killer does not actually exist, after a three year investigation.
The Metropolitan Police have said that the deaths were not caused by a human and are likely to be the result of major blunt force trauma consistent with vehicle collisions.
While the mutilation to the bodies of the cats - including the heads and tails – are believed to have been caused by scavenging foxes.
The investigation into the so-called ‘Croydon cat killer’ was launched in November 2015, after reports from members of the public of mutilated cats, often found with their heads and tails removed, in Croydon and the surrounding area.
Deaths of cats from London, around the M25 and even Portsmouth - including several this year – had been attributed to the now debunked animal serial killer.
Met Police worked with the RSPCA and local charity South Norwood Animal Rescue League (SNARL) during their investigation.
But no evidence was found that any of the cats had been killed by a human.
Frontline Policing Commander Amanda Pearson said: ‘On average, the Met receives over 1,000 calls each month relating to animals and animal welfare.
‘We understand the reason for this - people trust the police to help them when they suspect others have done wrong, fear for their own safety or simply are facing situations that they are unable to handle themselves.
‘We will always assist the public in an emergency, but I would urge people to report concerns relating to animal welfare in the first instance to the RSPCA.
‘The decision was made to allocate a large number of similar reports of mutilated cats to the officers who were investigating the initial spate of such allegations. In particular, they were following up the six suspicious cases identified by the post-mortem examinations.
‘While this increased the workload of those officers, it significantly reduced the resources that would have been required for different officers in different units to record and assess each allegation separately.
‘It is this collating of reports that enabled officers to work with experts and reach the conclusion that no further police investigations are required into any of the allegations relating to mutilated cats.’
SNARL founder Tony Jenkins has been down to visit Portsmouth to hand out leaflets in an effort to catch the so-called ‘Croydon cat killer’ previously.
Following the Met Police’s findings, SNARL issued the following statement on Facebook: ‘We are aware of the notification this morning by the Met Police that they are discontinuing Operation Takahe, due to new evidence that suggests the injuries to the cats are fox predation post- road traffic accident or other event.
‘As you can imagine, this morning’s announcement has come as a surprise and we will be taking advice on how to move forward.
‘We consider that the evidence we have gathered over the last three years does indicate human involvement and there is expert opinion to back this up.
‘Over the last three years, we have discounted over 1500 incidents as non-human related.
‘The police have said that they will continue to investigate incidents where there is clear evidence of human involvement.
‘Our priority at the moment is the victim’s families and we will release a further statement in due course.’