Brutal rabbit decapitation latest in M25 Animal Killer spate of attacks

Elmo was decapitated. Picture: Donna Leal

Elmo was decapitated. Picture: Donna Leal - Credit: Archant

The brutal decapitation of a pet rabbit is the latest in a spate of animal mutilations across the district linked to the infamous M25 Animal Killer.

Elmo was decapitated. Picture: Donna Leal

Elmo was decapitated. Picture: Donna Leal - Credit: Archant

In the latest attack the knife-wielding offender is believed to have climbed into the victim’s garden while her children were inside the house, before killing the animal and leaving its corpse for them to find.

It is the fourth pet mutilation in the district since July 2016, and the second bunny in two weeks.

Mum of four Donna Leal, 36, of Longfield Road, discovered the gruesome remains when she went out to feed rabbit Elmo.

The grey bunny’s head and front legs had been chopped off before he had been neatly covered with dirt. All the missing body parts have not yet been found.

Elmo was decapitated. Picture: Donna Leal

Elmo was decapitated. Picture: Donna Leal - Credit: Archant

She said the perpetrator was a sick, cold and calculating person: “I just shake Elmo’s food bag and he normally jumps out, but I didn’t see him anywhere and after a couple of minutes I realised he wasn’t in the garden. I thought he must have escaped, but then I saw a bulge in the flower bed.

“They had covered him over with mud, it was all really even and neat - if an animal had done it, it wouldn’t be neat. I felt sick because it was obvious straight away that an animal hadn’t done it, you could tell by looking at it. It’s got to be some kind of psycho. I knew something was wrong and so I called the police.”

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Donna believes Elmo was not properly buried so he definitely would be found.

She thinks the attack took place between 11am on Monday, November 6 and 11am on Wednesday, November 8: “It’s scary because someone had to climb in my garden with a knife while my children were inside.

“They were so sad he had died and I told them he died of natural causes, but if they had found him it could have scarred them forever.”

Investigating officer PC Richard Donbavand said: “This was understandably an extremely distressing incident for the rabbit’s owner and I want to reassure the people of Harpenden and the wider community that we are taking this report very seriously.

“An investigation has now been launched and I am appealing for anyone with information to please come forward.”

This is the second rabbit mutilated in Harpenden this month - lionhead bunny Teddy was targeted and left by a young child’s pink playhouse. In both cases the killer has climbed over private back garden fences to access the pets.

It is not confirmed if Elmo was a victim of the notorious M25 Animal Killer, who has been terrorising pet owners since 2014, but Teddy definitely was.

There have been more than 350 cats and 40 foxes attributed to the butcher, formerly known as the Croydon Cat Killer before the true extent of the crimes became apparent. Since then animals all over the country have been targeted, including many in the St Albans district.

South Norwood Animal Rescue and Liberty (SNARL) pushed for a police investigation into the mutilations and have offered a £10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.

The resulting Operation Takahe was launched in 2015 to track down the killer - who targets small animals by killing them with brute force, before cutting off heads, tails, heads and tails, front paws, or back legs, and displays the body parts where they will be found.

Co-founder of SNARL, Tony Jenkins, believes the attacker could be a danger to humans and the crimes are ultimately planned to cause pet owners distress. Although animals die, he believes that is not the primary reason for the killings, and did not rule out the possibility it could be a group of attackers working together.

PC Donbavand advised concerned pet owners to consider bringing them inside or moving them to a locked shed overnight.

He added: “At this time, we cannot confirm whether this incident is being linked to the Metropolitan Police’s Operation Takahe but we are exploring several lines of enquiry.”

Anyone with information should contact police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.