There might not be a maniacal cat-killer on the loose in London after all, or at least not a human one.
The mutilated remains of hundreds of domestic cats and kittens -- along with some foxes and rabbits -- have been turning up in the south of London since 2015.
Horrified locals have pinned the blame on a Jack the Ripper-type figure dubbed the "Croydon Cat Killer" who got his kicks from disemboweling pets and posing their remains near schools and outside owners' homes.
The hunt for the presumed killer or killers was picked up by animal welfare groups and eventually Scotland Yard, which on Thursday reported the findings of a three-year investigation.
A pet rescue and rehabilitation shelter called Snarl even published the suspects' profile: a white man in his 40s who was 1.8 metres (5.9 feet) tall.
But London police said the culprits were probably not human at all.
"Following a thorough examination of the available evidence, officers working alongside experts have concluded that hundreds of reported cat mutilations in Croydon and elsewhere were not carried out by a human and are likely to be the result of predation or scavenging by wildlife," the Metropolitan Police said.
The lengthy police statement went through the details of the probe, which involved detailed forensic work and the study of reams of CCTV film.
Detectives said that even the discovery of a cat's head in a school playground had a perfectly innocent explanation.
"CCTV showed a fox carrying the head into the playground," the statement said.
Foxes were also blamed for the case of a woman who found a cat with no head or tail near her property and another who found just the head in her garden.
"All of the cases of cat mutilation will be recorded as 'no crime'," the police said.
Detectives added that they were aware of a similar spate of mutilations some 20 years ago in Britain that was also eventually blamed on scavengers like foxes.
A special "Fox Website" run by the University of Bristol says that up to 33,000 foxes live in urban areas in Britain.