Police in Yonne (Bourgogne-Franche-Comté) shared the identikit image of one of the suspected horse attackers yesterday (August 27).
They were able to create the image by working with a local horse owner who chased away attackers who came to his animal refuge in the night and stabbed two of his horses.
The owner, Nicolas Demajean, was stabbed in the arm during the confrontation and had to go to hospital for treatment.
In a Facebook post accompanying the portrait, the Yonne police department appealed for anyone with information about the attacker to come forward.
Over 15 attacks in France and now Germany, Belgium and UK
Over 15 horses, ponies and donkeys have been killed and mutilated in around 20 departments in France in just over six months, with multiple attacks happening in Jura (Bourgogne-Franche-Comte), Somme (Hauts-de-France) and Puy-de-Dôme (Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes).
Police investigations are ongoing, but it has been difficult for police to gather evidence, as the attackers strike at night on large rural properties, with their crimes only being discovered hours later.
Investigators are trying to gather information from crime scenes, including traces of DNA. Christophe Plourin, from the Yonne police department, told news source FranceInfo that horse owners who discover attacks should “absolutely avoid modifying crime scenes so that we can gather as much information as possible”.
While attacks have so far been centred in France, similar incidents have also been reported recently in Germany, Belgium and the UK.
French horse owners 'panicked and scared'
As the number of attacks continues to rise, horse owners in France are increasingly worried about how to protect their animals.
Bertrand Neveu, from horse association la Ligue Française Pour la Protection du Cheval, told FranceInfo: “It’s a real panic. [Attacks] can happen to anyone and any kind of horse. We have had donkeys, racing horses, horses for sports and for leisure, in horse-riding centres, farms and private owners.
“Unfortunately, I think there will be more cases if we don’t speed up investigations.”
Horse-owner Roxanne, from Côtes d’Armor (Brittany) had been sleeping in the field with her horses, hidden behind trees, and organising a rota of nightly checks with her neighbours for ten days when she took a night off. In the morning she found one of her horses with a cut around its ears that required 25 stitches.
She told FranceInfo: “I feel guilty. it was the first night I wasn’t with them and this barbaric thing happened.”
Since then, she says she monitors her fields “with my telephone charged to the maximum, and 17 [the number for the police] already put in just in case".
In Lannion (Brittany) horse-owner Nicolas has invested in expensive security cameras after one of his horses had her ears cut twice in a few days. He said: “Since then we haven’t slept, we keep watch. We put up a tent near the field and as soon as we suspect anything we go out with a torch and check the field.
“That can happen 30 or 40 times in a night.”
Local police have opened an investigation into the incidents.