The great Moggy mystery
Just what was making all of our cats disappear?
As the puppies excitedly wagged their tails, me and my sister Caroline were in our element.
‘They're so cute!' I beamed, stroking one of the six-week old Jack Russell terriers. ‘Can we have one, Mum? Pleeease!' But my mum Sandra shook her head.
‘You won't be the one looking after it,' she winked.
We were at my neighbour Gordon's house, two doors down. Gordon bred puppies and was always happy to let us play with them.
Suddenly, I snapped out of my daydream. That had been many years ago when I was six and a lot had happened since then. I'd grown up, left home, got married to Sean 28, and had two gorgeous kids Ryan, six, and Isaac, three.
A year earlier, we'd moved back to my childhood home to help Mum while my dad Colin was at work, because she had a bad back. And now, as I ushered the kids in the door from school, all the memories had come flooding back when I spotted Gordon walking past.
‘Hello,' he grinned. ‘How's it going?'
‘We're all good!' I smiled back.
He was 74 now and his brown hair was greying, but he was still as friendly as ever. And there was another thing that hadn't changed either over the years - my love of animals.
We had four cats, Pumpkin, Pansy and brother and sister Morris and Patience. We doted on them so much it was like having six kids, not two.
So I was anxious one evening when two-year-old Pumpkin, a fluffy black and white moggy, didn't come back indoors after his usual wander.
‘Pumpkin...' I called from the back door, shaking a carton of his favourite cat treats. But there was still no sign of him four hours later, at 9pm.
‘Don't worry, he'll be back,' Sean reassured me.
But, that night as we went to bed, he still wasn't home. And I felt unsettled as I stared up at the empty cushion on top of my wardrobe where Pumpkin usually slept.
Next evening, there was still no sign of him when I let Pansy, a nine-month-old tortoiseshell and blue-grey moggy Morris, also nine months, out for a run.
Hours later, only Morris returned home. ‘What's going on?' I said to Sean anxiously. ‘First Pumpkin, now Pansy?'
We searched nearby and asked people to check their gardens and back sheds - but there was nothing.
‘Why are our cats leaving home?' Ryan asked the next morning. ‘Are they okay, Mummy?'
‘I'm sure they're fine,' I insisted. But I shuddered at the thought of them accidentally trapped in someone's shed, feeling terrified. Or worse, being run over by a car.
‘I don't even want to let Morris out in case he doesn't come back either,' I fretted to Sean later.
But Morris managed to sneak through the cat flap the next morning. And, sure enough, he didn't return either.
‘Three cats in three days,' I wailed to Sean. ‘They can't have just vanished into thin air.'
‘I'm calling the police,' I said to Sean. ‘If you're sure, love,' Sean agreed.
So I rang the police and an officer came round and listened to our concerns.
‘I'm afraid as there's no evidence of foul play, there's not much we can do,' he admitted.
The kids were heartbroken.
‘I just want them home, Mum,' Ryan said, staring at their empty bowls lined up on the kitchen floor.
Over those next days, the boys made missing posters. We rang animal charities and rescue shelters within a 40-mile radius. And we posted leaflets through our neighbours' doors.
It wasn't just us pining. Poor Patience was our only remaining cat and she was really missing her brother Morris. That night, as I put down her food, she pushed her bowl away with her paw.
‘I want him home too, Patience,' I said, stroking her soft fur.
I'd almost given up all hope of ever seeing our beloved cats again when, one morning, four weeks after they disappeared, there was a knock on my bedroom door at 6am. I opened it to find Mum holding a matted bundle of fur.
‘Pumpkin!' I shrieked. ‘Where have you been?' He was so thin and his fur was caked in dirt.
‘I woke up to see him jump though my window,' she explained.
We didn't know where Pumpkin had been, but we rushed him to a vet who insisted he'd be okay with just a bit of TLC.
But our happiness was short-lived. One morning two weeks later, I found a bloodied bundle of fur in the road. Pumpkin had been knocked over by a car. We were all devastated. ‘We only just got him back,' whimpered Ryan.
We buried him in the back garden. Ryan made a poster with Pumpkin's picture on it and the date he died, which we tied to a piece of wood as a makeshift gravestone. The kids were so upset, I decided to get them another cat to help cheer them up. Pip, a six-month-old fluffy ginger, was gorgeous. But I couldn't help feeling anxious every time he went out of the door.
So four months after he arrived, I instantly panicked when he failed to return home by midnight.
Sean went out searching for him, and when I heard him come back, I raced downstairs.
I gasped when I saw him holding Pip in his arms. The poor thing was trembling uncontrollably.
‘Where did you find him?' I asked.
‘In a bush underneath Gordon Wilson's front window,' he began. ‘In a cat trap!'
‘A cat trap?!' I blurted, shocked.
I listened as Sean explained that he'd been hunting for Pip when he heard a frightened miaow.
‘I followed the sound straight to Gordon's window and saw Pip stuck in the trap,' he trailed off.
Horrified, I ordered Sean to go back immediately and get the trap.
When he returned with it, I couldn't believe my eyes. It was a homemade cage made of wood and chicken wire. He'd put tuna in there as bait
and when a cat entered, a peg was dislodged and a plastic flap came down, trapping them inside.
‘He's made this especially,' I shrieked, bristling with shock and anger.
I just couldn't understand it. Gordon, my friendly neighbour I'd known since I was a kid, was an animal lover, too. How could he do this?
We called the police and the following day Gordon was arrested and then released on bail. Just hours later, there was a knock on the door. It was Gordon.
‘Do you know what you've done to my family, my kids?' I thundered.
‘I'm sorry,' he insisted. ‘It's not something I'm proud of.'
He looked so forlorn on the doorstep, I even felt a pang of sympathy. But then I thought of my poor cats and I turned away, not wanting to hear anymore.
Soon after, Gordon Wilson, 74, appeared at Scarborough Magistrates' Court and admitted an offence of abandoning a cat and making no provision for its needs and two counts of theft.
The court heard how Gordon had lured the cats into his homemade trap with tuna and then released them into the countryside. He'd done it because he didn't want his pristine garden covered in cat poo.
He was fined £250 and ordered to pay us £100 compensation.
If we'd known Gordon was so worried about his garden, we'd have bought him some cat repellent pellets. There's no excuse for what he did.
We'll never see Pansy and Morris again and we still miss them terribly, like we do Pumpkin. They were part of our family and I thought Gordon of all people would have understood that.
Jo-Anne Wilcockson, 27, Hunmanby, North Yorkshire
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