By Pascal Rossignol
LE CROTOY, France (Reuters) – Rebecca Pavy, manager of the Cavalcade equestrian centre in northern France, had one message for the police hunting whoever is responsible for a spate of killings and mutilations of horses.
“Catch them, catch them,” she told three gendarme officers who visited her centre on Thursday to check on her security arrangements and give advice on what to do if the culprits strike.
Across France, horse breeders, pony clubs and equestrian centres are in a state of high alert after horses have been found with ears cut off, eyes gouged out, and genitals mutilated.
Police say they have no idea what the motive is. Theories include a satanic rite, macabre trophy hunt, or internet challenge. In all, 150 investigations have been opened. Police this week detained a man they said was a suspect, but then released him without charge.
On Thursday, the gendarmes were visiting farms and riding centres in the countryside near the Channel port of Dieppe.
At the Levant Stable, the officers gave manager Jean Francois Decayeux a leaflet entitled: “How to ensure the protection of my horses.”
He said he had brought in horses from outlying pastures and toured the property every evening to check on them. He also listens out for any unusual vehicles.
“We have no desire to take the law into our own hands, we will call the gendarmes straight away,” he said, when asked what he would do if he encounters a suspect.
At Pavy’s riding centre, surveillance cameras have been fitted in the pastures. Looking at the horse standing at her shoulder, she said it was hard to bear the thought of any of her horses falling victim to the mutilations.
“Our horses are our passion. It’s more than a job. It’s a friend, a companion who spends a good portion of their life with us,” she said.