Many people don’t step outside their comfort zones. But I’m not many people. I’m one person. And I’m a journalist.
The Croydon Cat Killer is reported to have dismembered and decapitated more than 400 cats across England since 2014. Reports of his activities have spread as far north as Manchester. Like Banksy and The Stig, the Croydon Cat Killer has chosen to remain anonymous to the general public. His actions have been consistently reported in the press, yet he has never been physically spotted nor described. Nor interviewed.
I had never met a person who dismembered and decapitated cats. I grew curious. I had to reach out.
We meet at his house in Twickenham. (As it turns out, the Croydon Cat Killer doesn’t even live in Croydon.) It seems like a sensible work-life balance. Don’t kill cats where you eat, eh?
He’s wearing a green t-shirt with some camouflage cargo trousers. There’s a faint toothpaste stain on his chest. He has a set of keys. I count eight pockets, though there could have been more.
As we walk through his front room, he offers me a cup of tea. I notice a cabinet filled with claws. A small glass case – about the size of a matchbox – holds a collection of whiskers. I decide to speak up: “Milk with no sugar, cheers.”
“So you’re the Croydon Cat Killer,” I ask, “but is there another name I can call you today?”
He seems taken aback. It is clear that few people had bothered to learn his real name or story. He hesitates and responds with a smile.
“Some people call me the M25 Cat Killer. Some prefer the London Cat Killer. Each tabloid has their preferred nickname. Tomato, tomato.”
I ponder on that for a second.
“Do you think all this name-calling in the media is helpful?”
“Do you prefer any nickname?”
“I really don’t mind.”
“Well, what do you like?”
He’s surprisingly open and it’s refreshing. I delve a bit deeper.
“When did you decide to start killing cats?”, I ask. (I knew the answer: the Croydon Cat Killer had been active since 2014. I did my homework.)
“What happened in 2014 that made you into the Croydon Cat Killer?”
“I killed my first cat.”
I wanted to talk with this man. For too long, he had been alienated by the press, pigeon-holed by his community, and forced to hide his opinions on cat-killing. I like engaging with views that I find uncomfortable. It often makes me change my opinions. It broadens the mind. I wanted to broaden his.
I decided to surprise him. I had an amazing idea up my sleeve. This idea was named Dawn. She was light brown and rosy-whiskered.
Many people would not trust the Croydon Cat Killer around their kitten.
But I’m not many people. I’m one person. I’m a journalist.
I wanted to see how he would react to Dawn. Dawn was four weeks old and had only just developed a sense of the world. I brought her into the room and introduced Dawn to “our friend, the Croydon Cat Person”. (I changed his name for Dawn’s benefit. And anyhow, name-calling isn’t helpful.)
Her newly-opened eyes absorbed our surroundings. For about a minute, she developed a routine. She would sharply glance at the room for a second, then she would look at me. Her tail would move, and she would emit a purr. Dawn’s curiosity made her dance.
Watching Dawn was ecstasy. Her eyes dragged a smile out of my face. She commanded irresistible joy. She was perfect for my investigation, and I could already see a smile widening on the face of my Croydonite friend.
Had cats ever made an effort to engage in meaningful dialogue with the Croydon Cat Killer? Maybe Dawn could civilly change his view on cat-killing. Maybe she could build a bridge with him. Six legs, two brains, and one tail walking over the same bridge of coexistence. I could picture it all, as Dawn surveyed the room with her curious stride.
Reader, he killed my cat.
Words by Amitai Landau-Pope. Artwork by Issy Davies.