A MYSTERY serial cat killer is suspected of claiming their 48th victim after another 14 pets died from antifreeze poisoning in the same area.
It is feared that the recent spate of slayings may be the handiwork of the same person thought to be behind 34 other cat deaths in Somerset in the past few years.
All the cats are understood to have been killed by eating food laced with antifreeze, which causes the animals to suffer a slow and painful death.
Police and animal welfare workers have previously investigated a series of similar cat deaths in Bridgwater and Stogursey, Somerset.
But pet owners and police fear the so-called “cold cat killer” is now targeting the feline population in nearby Taunton where the most recent deaths occurred.
All 14 cats have been found dead within one mile of each other in Priorswood, Taunton, in the past month and several more have been reported missing.
Concerned cat owners in the town have posted leaflets to over 100 homes warning them of the danger and have locked their pets indoors.
Tina Parminter, from Taunton, found her five-year-old cat Fred dead last week from suspected antifreeze poisoning.
She said: "I was heartbroken when I found out Fred had died and this was happening. I don't know why anyone would do it, but it needs to be stopped."
Lucy Watts, who found her cat, Alfie, dead next to her home in nearby Massingham Park, added: "I found him after a couple of weeks and knew he hadn't been hit by a car.
"He looked like he'd been poisoned, and then a few other people I'd spoken to had problems with their cats too. I was shocked when I heard of all these deaths."
Two cats were found together outside a Tesco Express store in Priorswood Road and more in Lyngford Place and Lyngford Square have died suddenly of antifreeze poisoning.
Taunton resident Melisa Casey is campaigning to put and end to the killings and has placed dozens of posters in shop windows and on lampposts to alert cat owners.
She said: "It's very worrying for the whole area.
"My mum called me and told me about what was going on, and since then I've been printing leaflets and making people aware of the issue.
"I put leaflets up around the area, but I noticed some have been ripped down. We need to stop this."
The RSPCA and Avon and Somerset Police said its inspectors were investigating the latest deaths.
Another 34 felines are believed to have died as a result of poisoning in the Bridgwater area over the last four years.
In 2008, 18 cats were killed after ingesting antifreeze in Bridgwater, while 16 have been found dead in the last four years a few miles away in Stogursey.
The cats died agonising deaths after ingesting the harmful chemical, which the culprit had soaked into biscuits, cat nibbles or chicken fillets.
Cats poisoned with antifreeze suffer a painful death as it crystallises in the kidneys.
Just two tea spoons of the liquid, which contains lethal ethylene glycol, is enough to kill a cat unless treatment is sought within an hour.
Anyone found guilty of causing unnecessary suffering to an animal faces a six-month prison sentence and a £20,000 fine under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
TIMELINE OF CAT KILLINGS
March 2008 - Four cats die in Beech Road, Bridgwater
April 2008 - Seven cats found dead in the Bower area of Bridgwater
May 2008 - One cat from Coleridge Road, Bridgwater, found dead
August 2008 - Six cats from Bath Road, Bridgwater, die
November 2010 - One cat found dead in Burgage Road, Stogursey. Owner Emma Guy claims she has found evidence of another 15 other recent cat deaths in the village.
April 2012 - Two cats found dead in Priorswood Road, Taunton
April 2012 - Another 12 cats found dead in Lyngford Place, Lyngford Square and Massingham Park, in Taunton.