It was shaping up to be like a normal Tuesday in a small coastal community in Dunedin when “all hell broke loose”.
“I will catch and euthenize (sic) cats that kill my goldfish and birds on my property,” warned a Nov. 1 post on the Roseneath Community Facebook page.
“If this is your cat, you have until 8am tomorrow (Wednesday) to claim it,” said ‘Doc Turpin” post, which featured a photo of a cat in a cage.
Following the threat, amateur sleuths managed to track the alleged person behind the post to a property in Roseneath.
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The post led to a flurry of comments, including whether the Turpin account’s caged cat post was linked to an anonymous handwritten letter sent to some households regarding another cat.
This letter, obtained by Things, asked “Is this your cat?”, and presented a colorful image of a brown cat.
“Dear cat owner, I have spent over 20 years planting natives and bringing birds back to our neighborhood.
“I don’t appreciate that bird killer on my land – Your pet!”
The note asked: ”Can I come and s…in your vegetable garden?”
“DON’T BE AN IRRESPONSIBLE CAT OWNER!!”. It was signed ‘Pro Birds’.
The cat photo looked like a missing cat whose owners had made a flyer, asking “Have you seen Cocoa?”
Cocoa went missing from the Roseneath area on October 31 and has yet to be found.
The cat pictured in the cage also disappeared on October 31, its owners, who declined to be named, told Stuff.
They posted information about their missing cat, Motley, on a Port Chalmers Facebook page when “all hell broke loose” on November 1.
The woman received a screenshot of Roseneath’s Facebook post featuring Motley in a cage.
“I thought it was a joke,” she said.
It was then that he was told the address where Motley might be held captive.
One of the amateur sleuths who helped track down the person behind the post was Harry Richardson, who also has a missing cat.
“It was pretty straightforward detective work,” Richardson said.
It took him 30 minutes of online sleuthing to unmask the person behind the post, and that information was given to “prominent members” of his community.
Richardson said Things there was “no life” in Doc Turpin’s Facebook profile, other than a long post about algae in his 5,000 liter aquarium.
“And in this neighborhood, there’s only one place I could think of that could have an Olympic-size swimming pool for an aquarium.”
A check of the property revealed it was owned by a trust – named after an aquarium fish – and the man behind that trust was Norman Evans.
In less than 30 minutes, the owners of Motley drove to the address, which featured a large fish pond.
Evans was “perfectly friendly”, they said.
Visitors were recently spotted with cats in their packs on Taranaki Maunga, prompting a DOC warning about a ban on pets in the national park.
They said Evans maintained he was never going to kill the cat and was only holding it to “flush out” the owner of the other cat, who was targeting his fish.
The couple then took the cat to the vet. She was dehydrated and her front claws were missing, “because she was trying to get out of the cage”.
The Motley owner later alleged that the man behind the original post was Norman Evans.
A complaint was then lodged with police, who visited the property this week and were told by a relative that he was overseas.
No one was home when Things visited the property this week, but Evans replied to a message confirming that he was “overseas at the moment”.
Asked about specific allegations involving the trapping of cats and using a pseudonym and a photo of a trapped cat, with the animal then retrieved from its address, he replied: “Sounds like a good story.”
“I don’t care if a couple of local cat ladies slander me, but I will take legal action if Things post untruths about me,” he said.
Evans did not respond to further questions.
Senior Sergeant Anthony Bond confirmed that police received a complaint about the incident and visited the property. The police gave prevention advice to the parent of Evans.
The offending Facebook post was also deleted, but not before some sort of apology was made by Doc Turpin.
A screenshot of Turpin read: “Thank you for all your outrage. The message went around Roseneath and I was able to return the cat to its owner. He was fed, watered and cared for until they came for him.
“Nothing like outrage to get a message across quickly…like I’m going to kill a cat!”