Family thought their cats had run away… but neighbour had caught them in tuna-baited traps to stop them fouling his gardenGordon Wilson, 74, baited a home-made trap with tuna to capture petsThe pensioner hated the cats for fouling his immaculate garden
One pet returned home only to be run over because it was so disorientatedAnother was found trapped in a cage in a bush by its owner at 1am
23:36 GMT, 27 December 2012
When three of their cats vanished without trace, the Wilcocksons thought they had simply run away.
Their devastated children searched the neighbourhood and stuck up posters to try to track them down.
But when – several months later – they found another one of their pets trapped in a cage, the family realised there was a more sinister reason behind their disappearance.
'Not proud': Gordon Wilson (left) baited a home-made trap with tuna to capture pets including Pip (right)
Their neighbour, Gordon Wilson, 74, had been baiting a home-made trap with tuna to capture the pets before releasing them into the countryside.
The pensioner hated the animals for fouling his immaculate garden.
Only one of the pets that he captured managed to return home – and he was so disorientated by the experience that he later got run over and died.
Two of the family’s cats remain missing, but there seems little hope that they will be found.
Joanne Wilcockson, 27, has lived two doors away from Wilson in Hunmanby, North Yorkshire, all her life, and used to go to his house as a child to play with his Jack Russell puppies. So when three of her cats went missing in as many days in April, she never suspected he was behind it.
Home-made: The trap that Wilson used to capture the cats before releasing them into the countryside
Pumpkin, a three-year-old black and white tom, was the first to go.
The same thing happened to their second tom, Morris, and their tortoiseshell cat Pansy, both of whom were little more than kittens.
Distraught children Ryan, eight, and Isaac, five, made posters and leaflets to distribute locally, but to no avail.
Although Pumpkin did return home, he was ‘confused’ and was run over by a car shortly afterwards – leaving the family with just one cat called Patience.
Over the summer, Mrs Wilcockson and her factory worker husband, Sean, decided to get another cat, a ginger tom they called Pip. When he didn’t return home one evening in October, Mr Wilcockson went to search and found him trapped in the cage at 1am.
‘I thought he had been hit by a car and wandered around the road looking for him,’ he said.
Survivor: Pip was saved when his owner found him at 1am in a cage in a bush in Wilson's front garden
It was only when he heard a miaow that he was able to trace Pip to a cage in a bush in Wilson’s front garden.
‘I turned the light of my mobile phone on and saw he was sitting in this cage,’ Mr Wilcockson said. ‘I realised it was a trap immediately.’
The cage was made of chicken wire and baited with tuna. As the cat entered, a peg holding up a plastic flap was dislodged, sealing the animal in.
Wilson was arrested the next day and questioned. He admitted responsibility and apologised to the family. He was later fined 250 for theft by Scarborough magistrates and ordered to pay 205 in compensation.
‘He said he was very sorry for what he had done and would never have done it if he had known the hurt he was causing,’ Mr Wilcockson, 28, said.
‘He has a really beautiful garden and the reason he gave police was he likes it pristine and did not want to put his hand in the soil and find cat poo. If we had known there was a problem we would have bought him some cat-repellent pellets to put down – but we didn’t know.
‘We still do talk to him though. He is very remorseful. We don’t expect to ever see the other two cats again but if anyone knows anything we would like to know if they are all right.’
Wilson said last night: ‘It’s not something I’m proud of.’