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Yishun cat deaths: Patrols continue after 2 suspects arrested

SINGAPORE — Two alleged abusers have been arrested in the past two months in connection with several dead cats found in Yishun, but community groups Channel NewsAsia spoke to said they are not ruling out other possible abusers.

Yishun cat deaths: Patrols continue after 2 suspects arrested

Over the past three months, there have been 17 cases of cat abuse in Yishun. Photo: Ernest Chua

SINGAPORE — Two alleged abusers have been arrested in the past two months in connection with several dead cats found in Yishun, but community groups Channel NewsAsia spoke to said they are not ruling out other possible abusers.

On Dec 29, 40-year-old Lee Wai Leong was charged in court with killing a cat after he threw it down the 13th floor of a block of flats. About a month later, another 51-year-old man was arrested for his suspected involvement in killing a pet cat.

The Singapore Police Force (SPF) and Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) also revealed on Friday (Jan 29) that the deaths of seven cats in the neighbourhood since last September were not due to animal cruelty. The deaths were attributed to causes such as traffic accidents, natural causes and falls from heights.

Only two cases were proven to be linked to abuse, and the suspects are believed to be involved in those cases, according to the authorities.

Ms Veron Lau, a committee member of the Cat Welfare Society (CWS), told Channel NewsAsia yesterday (Jan 31) that the group still suspected other abuse cases in the neighbourhood. They were also concerned as 19 of the cases remained open.

“Even though it’s inconclusive, we cannot rule out abuse for sure,” she said.

Animal rescue group Yishun 326 Tabby Cat founder Janet Sum said the group also believed there were more cat abusers in the area.

“We believe that the numbers of killings that have taken place within a very short period of time indicate that the main killer or killers are still out there,” she said, adding that the volunteers in the group had been in Yishun for many years, and had never come across so many similar cases of cats suffering from blunt force injury at any one time.

“Cats are very alert and nimble. We believe that they are caught unaware in the wee hours of the night when they are sleeping in the void deck ... It is definitely a pre-meditated act, a very coordinated act in fact.”

VOLUNTEER PATROL GROUPS SPRING UP

On Dec 15, MP for Nee Soon GRC Louis Ng announced a grassroots fast response team would be beefed up to gather evidence and conduct patrols in Yishun.

Ms Sum, who is involved in the fast response team, told Channel NewsAsia that as of today, it had not been activated yet.

“We feel that SPF is doing an excellent job, and that’s why the two suspects were arrested. Because of their efficiency and their willingness to step in, we decided that the fast responders may not be as effective as the police,” she explained.

Ms Lau said patrols in the neighbourhood were still going strong. “The independent volunteers that have joined in the patrol are still very fervent and continuing with their work in patrolling the estate.”

There are about 20 to 30 volunteers patrolling the estate, Ms Lau said.

Aside from this team, another ad hoc group of volunteers has sprung up on social media platform Twitter, using the hashtag #YishunCatPatrol.

Ms Sum said that while this group was not affiliated to Yishun 326 Tabby Cat, they were doing an “excellent job” in the neighbourhood and the rescue group was glad for their patrols “because we really need them to be a deterrent factor”.

A Twitter user who only wanted to be known by his username POZboySG said he started the hashtag in December 2015. He told Channel NewsAsia that he was a cat feeder in Choa Chu Kang whose involvement in patrolling in the Yishun area was as “a kaypoh (nosy) and concerned citizen”.

Like Ms Lau and Ms Sum, POZboySG suggested there could be perpetrators aside from the two arrested. “The other gruesome cases seem to be a bold statement. Because the cats died in the open ... Cats and dogs (feral at least) know when they are going to die, most run into longkangs (drains) or into the forest to die.”

Another group with the Twitter handle @YishunCatPatrol, which describes itself on the social media platform as an “independent volunteer group fighting for justice for our feline friends lost in the Yishun cat deaths”, was set up on Friday.

This was a separate group of individuals from #YishunCatPatrol, according to POZboySG, although he posted on Twitter that the new group had reached out to him to join forces.

Ms Lau said while she thought all efforts made a difference and contributed to a greater good, it would be better to bring unofficial groups “back into the fold” so volunteers could operate in a coherent fashion.

“That’s why we are having a meeting with the authorities to determine what the good practices in investigation and surveillance are,” she said.

According to Ms Lau, CWS will be meeting with other volunteers, AVA and Mr Ng in the near future to put all parties on the same page regarding the investigations.

However, she added that while they could attempt to recommend best practices to other volunteers, whether they wanted to be part of the official investigation was up to them: “You can’t stop residents who are concerned and just want to walk the blocks.”

VIGILANTE JUSTICE?

There are different schools of thought when it comes to whether volunteers should go public about their patrols and potential suspects, according to POZboySG.

“The older cat feeders are very alarmed when I was so open about this issue (as) they prefer the sleuthing manner. But most of us (the younger patrollers) want the killer to know we are here to scare him off,” he said.

At about 2.20am on Dec 26, 2015, POZboySG posted a picture of a “suspicious character hovering near a very sick senior cat” under #YishunCatPatrol. The photo, taken from a distance, showed the side profile of a man sitting on the stairs of an open air carpark.

About an hour later, the Twitter user updated that the police had arrived. He uploaded another picture, this time of a car purportedly belonging to the man in the photo. “If you see his car, slash his tyres,” he said in a subsequent post which garnered 17 retweets.

When contacted by Channel NewsAsia, AVA and SPF confirmed they had followed up on the lead but said no case could be established against the individual in question.

“The public is advised not to take the law into their own hands,” the authorities added.

However, POZboySG was adamant that the man was behaving suspiciously when Channel NewsAsia spoke to him on Friday. “He was observing the cat in a manner that caused me discomfort. It’s an animal lover thing. We know if someone looking at animals isn’t ‘right’,” he explained.

Meanwhile, Ms Lau recommended that volunteers cooperate with the authorities rather than release the information to the public, as “sometimes jumping the gun can have a negative impact on an investigation”.

Nonetheless, she said public exposés of alleged abusers by volunteers could signal that some had “lost hope” that a suspect still at large would be apprehended.

“Maybe they feel like maybe the next best thing is just to stop him from doing harm again ... it’s not incorrect to think like that as well.” CHANNEL NEWSASIA

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