Warning: This story contains descriptions of violence that some readers may find distressing.
The first grim discovery came when a woman found the severed head and paws of a brown speckled cat as she walked along the banks of the Arakawa River in Saitama City, Japan. Days later, what police believe was the rest of the body turned up on the grounds of an elementary school.
Within 10 days, by the end of February, members of the public had discovered two more mutilated cat carcasses, one in a field and another on the side of a small town road.
These gruesome acts may not have involved human victims, but they have nevertheless left this city in the Greater Tokyo area on edge.
Local schools are asking teachers to escort children home and advising them to walk in large groups; police have stepped up patrols, according to Japan’s public broadcaster NHK.