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The RSPCA "can't rule out" the Croydon Cat Killer is behind the butchering and beheading of swans in Thamesmead, as patrols are stepped up.

An investigation is under ways after horrific attacks on birds at Birchmere and Southmere lakes.

So far it's believed six swans and a goose have been killed.

Inspector Nick Wheelhouse, of the RSPCA, said: “Park wardens have informed me that they’re aware of the deaths of three swans, three cygnets and one Canada goose so far in recent weeks.

“It’s really concerning because the birds seem to have been stabbed and then beheaded, with their bodies left beside the water.

“While it’s a serious animal welfare concern, it’s also really upsetting for any of the park users who make the grisly find.”

Locals have started their own 'Swan Patrol' to act as a deterrent.

Swan Patrol founder Paul West told News Shopper: "Birds have been found and we don't think they were killed by animals. Their injuries are too malicious.

"People have been very supportive, this is where we live at the end of the day. The positive feedback is enough to keep us going, even just to deter the killer."

Swan Patrol co-founder Danny Mercer said: "Dead swans have been found in numerous places around Southmere Lake. At first the locals thought it was foxes catching them.

"Two swans were found gutted and butchered for their breast meat and the rest of the bodies laid strewn on the side of the lake. We knew then something was wrong."

The RSPCA said it was not ruling out the involvement of the Croydon Cat Killer.

A spokeswoman said: "There is no evidence to suggest that it is linked to that investigation but we can't rule it out and are keeping an open mind and appealing for any information that could help."

The so-called Croydon Cat Killer is being investigated by the Met Police for the killings of more than 200 animals across the country.

South Norwood Animal Rescue and Liberty has been working in conjunction with the Met investigating the cat killer.

It said that, despite the swan killings being hideous, it does not think they are linked to the notorious animal killer.

Swans are protected and it’s illegal to kill one of these birds. Anyone caught deliberately trying to injure a wild bird or kill it can face up to six months in prison.

Mr Wheelhouse said: "Peabody Neighbourhood wardens are now patrolling the area.

"They are also arranging for warning notices to be placed around the parks and police have been made aware and have stepped up patrols."

News Shopper:

Photo given to us by the RSPCA

A spokesman for Peabody said they were shocked at the animals deaths.

He said:"We are working with the community and the police to protect Thamesmead's much loved wildlife. That includes stepping up our warden patrols.

"We're shocked that anyone would harm swans or any other animal and, like everyone in Thamesmead, are determined to do everything possible to stop it happening again."

To report animal cruelty contact the RSPCA’s 24-hour emergency line on 0300 1234 999.