Police are investigating claims that a group of men in Beckton, east London, have been capturing foxes – torturing and setting the woodland creatures on fire.
Scotland Yard reported that a member of the public alerted an animal rescue group after being awoken by the sound of screaming at 1am on Monday (February 28).
The citizen at first thought the disturbing screams were human, but soon noticed a group of men pouring what appeared to be lighter fluid over a fox and setting it on fire with a lighter.
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Police said the badly-burnt fox was able to escape, but has not been spotted since.
The extent of the fox's injuries, or if it survived, remains unknown.
The Metropolitan Police are continuing to look into the “appalling, cruel incidents” after the crime was committed in a wooded area near Kestrel Avenue and Linton Gardens in Beckton.
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Detectives believe this not the first time the group have tortured local wildlife late at night, alleging that the perpetrators have previously captured and abused foxes.
According to local police, previous instances of torture have included setting the foxes' dens on fire, and setting dogs on them.
The group is being described as four black men aged around 18 – 20, and police are appealing for further witnesses.
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Detective Constable James Mahoney, a wildlife crime officer in Newham and Waltham Forest, said: “I am truly shocked and sickened by these appalling, cruel incidents and I would appeal to anyone with information to come forward so we can catch those responsible and prevent any more foxes from being hurt.
“If you live in the area, please check any doorbell, dash cam or CCTV footage in case you’ve captured these heinous crimes or a group of males matching the description loitering around.
“It is also possible that the group are not just targeting foxes in the Kestrel Avenue area, and so I’d urge the people of Newham to remain vigilant and report any information to us or Crimestoppers anonymously.”
Anyone with information is asked to call police on 101 or tweet @metcc quoting CAD 2533/27FEB or to contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
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