38 cats go missing across Northern Ireland since July - Newry man in plea for pets to be returned
A Northern Ireland cat-lover has voiced fears that someone is deliberately targeting felines after losing three of his pets in mysterious circumstances.
It follows a spate of bizarre disappearances across the province in recent weeks.
Most of the cases are in the Newry area but there have been reports of suspicious incidents in Belfast, Lisburn and Newtownards.
A total of 38 cats have gone missing since July 1 with the most recent reported disappearance on Sunday in Banbridge.
Gerard Redmond (28) lost his first cat Alan last November but he only became concerned when two-year-old Dermot vanished in broad daylight on September 2, just six days after another, Bruce, went missing.
Mr Redmond had let Bruce go out into the back garden of his home on the Fullerton Road in Newry at around 1pm. Within 30 minutes he was gone.
"It's scary to think that someone was brazen enough to come so close to the house to take him," Gerard told the Belfast Telegraph.
"When Bruce went missing it wasn't that surprising because he would have been the one to wander off, but Dermot never did.
"I called him and he never came, which is not like him.
"I didn't think there was anything malicious going on until the second disappearance."
Gerard traces the first incident back to when Alan went missing.
"I had no reason to be suspicious, but it was exactly the same thing so now there is a question mark over what happened back then," he added.
Now, with only one pet left, he is refusing to let Emmett out of his sight.
"We're too worried to allow him out, it's not safe so I can't take the risk," he added.
"I would like to think that some old lady has taken them in and that they are okay, but it's just too coincidental.
"I would prefer to believe they were in an accident than to think what might be happening."
In a desperate plea to whoever is behind the spate of disappearances, Gerard begged them to stop.
"It's cruel, these are people's pets but they just don't seem to care," he said.
"I know that mine are genuinely missed and if anyone can return them to me there will definitely be a reward - but I know that is just wishful thinking."
The Newry Reporter said 21 cats have gone missing in recent months, including 14 in August alone.
Emma O'Hare from Pet Connection in Newry warned cat owners to keep their beloved pets indoors for the foreseeable future due to the high volume of incidents.
She said six cats went missing within a square mile radius in a single week.
She is compiling a database in order to present evidence to the police and has vowed to look into all cases.
"I put a post on Facebook directly asking if any other cats were missing and the amount of people who responded was shocking. It's only now that I realise it's a widespread problem," she said.
"There is strong evidence to suggest that people who abuse animals go on to abuse humans, so it's important to find out who is doing this."
Ms O'Hare expressed fears that it might be someone imitating the 'Croydon Cat Killer' who was later dubbed the 'M25 Cat Killer' in England.
The culprit is suspected to be behind the death and mutilation of around 250 cats, as well as dozens of foxes and rabbits since October 2015.
"Although there are no bodies turning up in Northern Ireland, we are really worried it is something similar," she said.
"They are just vanishing, not one has shown up - that's what is so strange about it.
"I also have real fears they are being lifted for dog baiting which is awful for their owners to have to think about."
Emma has urged all cat owners to have their pets neutered, micro-chipped and tagged to prevent them roaming if they are unable to keep them indoors.
by brett campbell