A group of men in east London are suspected of capturing and torturing foxes in a wooded area at night on more than one occasion.
The Metropolitan Police are investigating the “appalling, cruel incidents” after an animal rescue group told them that a fox had been set on fire.
During the incident near Kestrel Avenue and Linton Gardens, in Beckton, a member of the public called rescuers as they were woken by the sound of screaming on Monday at 1am.
At first, they thought that the cries were from a human being, but after looking closer, they saw a group of men pouring what is believed to be lighter fluid over a fox and setting it on fire with a lighter.
Scotland Yard said the badly-burnt fox managed to escape but the extent of its injuries, or if it survived, is not known.
Detectives have discovered that the group – described as four black men aged about 18 to 20 – regularly go to the area in the early hours of the morning, and it is believed they have previously captured and tortured foxes.
Their methods include starting fires to smoke the canines out of their dens and setting their dogs on them, according to the police.
Detective Constable James Mahoney, a wildlife crime officer in Newham and Waltham Forest, said he was "truly shocked and sickened" by the "appalling, cruel incidents".
"I would appeal to anyone with information to come forward so we can catch those responsible and prevent any more foxes from being hurt," he said.
“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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