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Police in the Netherlands are hunting a serial horse abuser who has sexually mutilated mares across the country.
About 60 serious attacks have been identified by police across a wide swathe of the country, including 40 in which serious injuries were inflicted in and around the mares’ genital parts.
Police have publicised the series of crimes on the television show, Opsporing Verzocht, appealing for members of the public to come forward with crucial information that may solve the case.
The publicity prompted hundreds of tips and several suspects were named by callers. Ten callers reported fresh cases of horse abuse.
Police sought information on a stick found at the scene of one of the crimes which they believe may have used by the offender, and a Stanley knife found at another of the scenes.
They have also released a map pinpointing the scene of each crime and have asked the public whether they can identify any pattern in the locations.
The series of offences started in the province of Gelderland “a year or two ago”, with a horse in Malden. Local inquiries failed to identify the perpetrator.
Police said the offender laid low for a while, but then reports came in from Groesbeek. Then the offending happened again in Malden and then again in Groesbeek.
During 2013, attacks were reported in the central Netherlands, and the regions of East Brabant and Limburg. Horses in North Holland were targeted late in October last year.
There were even known incidents in the border regions of Belgium and Germany, police said.
All the horses suffered lacerations on the rear of their bodies which had clearly and deliberately been caused by a human.
“Almost all affected horses are mares,” a police spokesman said. Nearly all the animals survived, many having to endure long recoveries.
The attacks happened to horses out in pastures, as well as in barns. Even riding schools have been hit. Age did not appear to be a factor.
The attacks were almost weekly during the spring and summer, and about once a month over the winter.
“The places he chooses horses – the pasture, the barn – seem deliberately chosen,” the spokesman said.
Some of the locations were difficult to reach, accessible only by walking paths.
Police said it was possible that the offender travelled by car and also carried a bicycle. He seemed familiar with some locations and may have gone to look at the horses before carrying out his attacks.
Police speculated that, if indeed there was a sole perpetrator, he may have to travel throughout the Netherlands for his work.
They say the offender likely has an inner compulsion and they worry the offending might become more extreme.
It was likely, they said, that the perpetrator was familiar with horses. He may have been injured himself during some of the attacks and may have got blood on his clothing or bruising from kicks to his body.
Police have revealed two vital clues. One is a stick recovered at one of the scenes which police believe the offender may have inadvertently left behind. It is 1.3 metres long and authorities believe it was likely intended as a broomstick. A noteworthy feature was a round button and a metal ring at one end. Callers to the show said the stick reminded them of a painter’s pole
Police are keen to hear from anyone who might recognise the stick or can link it to an individual.
A Stanley knife – a box cutter – had also been recovered from one of the scenes. The blue-grey tool was found this year in a barn in Evertsoord, a small village in Limburg.
Police also found evidence at scenes that the offender had used sugar beet to lure the horses toward him.
Police have urged horse owners to be vigilant and to be especially alert to the presence of strangers around their animals.
They said anyone finding a mutilated horses should promptly call their veterinarian, but should also alert the police immediately.
“Please call the police immediately,” the spokesman said. “There was a lot of evidence lost last year because people cleaned up immediately.
“Each clue, however small, could eventually lead to the perpetrator.”
If possible, horse owners should take photographs of the scene.
Police suspect there may be owners who have not reported the abuse of their animals to police, or did not recognise it as such.
Authorities hope that the stick, the box cutter, the use of sugar beet, and the locations where the offender struck may lead to vital clues from the public.
It was possible, too, that members of the public may have unwittingly witnessed an attack and seen the offender.
Anyone with information can contact the Rural Unit/Animal Police within the Netherlands on 0800-6070 or anonymously on 0800-7000.