Police hunting a sick killer believed to be responsible for more than 300 animal mutilations and slayings now have a dedicated team of cops on the case.

Operation Tahake was launched by the Metropolitan Police in December 2015 to catch the animal attacker who has been dubbed as the Croydon Cat Killer.

Also known as the M25 or the UK Animal Killer, the person is being linked to hundreds of deaths as far afield as Manchester, Brighton and the Isle of Wight.

The killer is believed to have first struck in south Norwood, and operates in south London regularly. He reportedly strikes in built-up residential areas, mainly during the night time.

Calling cards of the killer include cutting off heads, paws and tails as well as leaving victims sliced open. He has been known to then display the bodies close to where he has hunted them down.

In south east London and north Kent alone, three attacks were reported within one week earlier this year, including a mutilated rabbit, a mutilated cat and a second mutilated rabbit - discovered in Dartford, Belvedere and Woolwich.

In figures released to this newspaper, the Metropolitan Police confirmed that, as of February this year, a team of dedicated officers is investigating the attacker.

A spokesman for the Met said: "Deaths captured by this investigation are investigated locally and the result reported back to the Operation Tahake. The MPS cannot confirm how many officers have been involved directly or indirectly in an Operation Tahake investigation but can confirm the number officers dedicated to Operation Tahake."

As of February 1, Operation Tahake consists of one Detective Sergeant, four Detective Constables and ten Police Constables.

The PCs are not attached to the operation full time, and do carry out other duties.

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The Met said it was not possible to record how much of its budget has been allocated to capturing the killer, but said police have funded post-mortems on some of the victims.

Police have funded 10 post mortems at a cost of £7,500. Others have been carried out that were not funded by the MPS.

South Norwood Animal Rescue and Liberty (SNARL) - an organisation specialising in the rehoming of animals - is working with the police to catch the so called cat killer. They, along with the RSPCA, have paid for post mortems of other victims. 

SNARL co-founder Boudicca Rising said: "I think that it is an amazing number of officers given the fact that these are animal related offences.

"It doesn't count the officers at each location or the scenes of crimes officers who attend. That's just the Takahe team. If you can imagine that each scene requires attendance of officers, statements taken, house to house done, checks for cctv and the scenes of crime, none of those are included in those numbers.

"Because we are often at scenes with police I can safely say that in Surrey, Sussex and the Met, we are more than happy with the response and time taken.

"The Met paid for 10 post mortems, the RSPCA paid for some and we are paying for the next ones.

"Last time our vet worked for free so we have the original fund we raised for this still sitting in an account which is what we will be using to pay for the next ones."

Operation Tahake is an ongoing police investigation. 

In August last year, the first description of a person of interest was released to the public.

He is said to be a white man in his 40s with short brown hair, dressed in dark clothing, possibly with acne scarring to his face. It also says he may be wearing a headlamp or carrying a torch.

A £10,000 reward has been put up for the capture of the murderer.

If you have any information on this case SNARL advise you to call the Croydon Serious Crime Squad on 0208 649 0216.

A timeline of atrocities

These are just some of the killings documented across south London in 2017