The motive of a cat killer, who is believed to be responsible for around 400 mutilations and killings, is to “horrify” people, an animal charity has said.
While cats are the primary target, rabbits and foxes have also been decapitated, before being left out in the open.
The culprit is understood to kill the animals with a blunt force, before mutilating and displaying them.
The grim display has led animal charity South Norwood Animal Rescue Liberty (SNARL) to theorise that the killer could hang around and gain gratification from people’s reactions to finding the bodies.
SNARL co-founder Tony Jenkins said: “I think the motive is to horrify humans.
“Why else would you get a fox and cut its head completely off and then place the body pointing to the children’s playground not 10 metres away.
“It is definitely an attack on humans, to terrify humans.”
He also believes that identical injuries and a “signature” left at the scene mean that, if there is more than one killer, it is a joint enterprise rather than copycat attacks.
Originally dubbed the “Croydon cat killer”, due to the location of the first decapitated animals found in October 2015, the attacker has now also struck in Surrey, Manchester, Sheffield and Birmingham.
The latest animal deaths to be investigated by police are cats found in Wallington and Carshalton on Christmas Day, which are “possibly linked” to the killer.
Scotland Yard has been running Operation Takahe for two years, working closely with the RSPCA and SNARL.
The established link between serial killers and harming animals has led police to warn that the attacker could move on to harming vulnerable women and girls.
While police previously released a description of a potential suspect, no arrests have been made.
There is a £10,000 reward for information leading to the capture of the killer, or killers.