Neil Tregarthen
Neil Tregarthen

Man spent $20k on private eye to track down kitten killer

WHEN his daughter's pet kitten was shot and killed, Neil Tregarthen decided that this would be one crime that would not go unpunished - even if he had to spend a small fortune solving it.

The wealthy retired businessman spent $A20,000 hiring private detectives to trace the kitten killer after, he claimed, police "failed to investigate".

But when his team identified a prime suspect, he said, the police still didn't "knock on doors and ask difficult questions".

Mr Tregarthen, 56, of Truro, Cornwall, spoke out to pin most of the blame on the government for "savage cuts" imposed on the police, warning: "We are heading for a dark place where the police can only afford to investigate murders and armed robberies."

Mr Tregarthen said his daughter Aylish, 24, had bought Farah to keep her company when she left the family home and moved to Exeter University to study medicine.

But one Sunday last September, when the black kitten was about a year old, Aylish came down for breakfast to see her pet lying immobile in her garden.

Farah had been shot in the stomach and an air gun pellet had punctured her bowel.  Despite the best efforts of vets, she died three days later.

Mr Tregarthen said: "Aylish was devastated.

The vet said it would have been an incredibly distressing and painful death for Farah. Any father would be angry with somebody who upset his daughter, but I am a measured man, and anger doesn't get things changed."

Soon after the shooting, he turned to an Exeter firm of private detectives, after, he claimed: "The police made it very clear they wouldn't be investigating further."

The six-week, £10,000 private investigation, he said, wasn't just for his daughter.

"It was for the people whose cats might be shot next - the elderly widow who might find her last companion crawling through the cat flap and dying. If people who can fight back don't do so, then we are all doomed."

Although he offered a £1,000 reward for information, Mr Tregarthen said: "Not one of at least 50 people who phoned asked about money. They said 'This is shocking'. Here is what I know.'"

The detectives identified a key suspect, who they said had an "obvious sociopathic nature".

"This was no boy scout investigation," said Mr Tregarthen. "I was successful in business because I am very demanding of people. I am 99.9 per cent sure the key suspect was responsible."

He added: "Because we did everything within the law, we didn't knock on suspects' doors. But in the old days the information would have been enough to get the police knocking on doors and asking difficult questions."

Claiming the police didn't do this, Mr Tregarthen said he was disappointed, but hoped that by speaking out now he could stimulate public debate about "the level of policing and the prospect that in the future, the police might not be able to cope with thuggish or anti-social behaviour.

"It's also about getting Government to understand what chief constables can deliver with the savage cuts they are enduring."

Devon and Cornwall Police Neighbourhood Beat Manager Steve Parsons insisted: "I am confident we have done everything possible in investigating this case.

"After all reasonable areas of enquiry were completed, I spoke to Ms Tregarthen to explain why no further action would be taken and she was happy with my explanation.

"I have examined the Mr Tregarthen's report and it is packed with rumour and speculation, not evidence. However, on the back of this local officers did make further enquiries which also turned out to be fruitless."

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