PM steps into Essex cat mystery

THE Prime Minster has stepped in to help an Essex village solve the mystery of its vanishing cats.Residents from Colne Engaine, near Halstead, have called for a police investigation to discover why their pets have disappeared without a trace.

THE Prime Minster has stepped in to help an Essex village solve the mystery of its vanishing cats.

Residents from Colne Engaine, near Halstead, have called for a police investigation to discover why their pets have disappeared without a trace.

This year 23 cats have gone missing, one has been shot and another villager fears her pet was poisoned. A similar number vanished from the tiny hamlet last year and in 2001.

Villagers held a public meeting last month to discuss the issue, and invited the police to give a progress report. However, no officer attended and the villagers sent a letter of complaint to Essex Chief Constable David Stevens, Halstead police inspector Tony Sale, Braintree MP Alan Hurst and Saffron Walden MP Alan Haselhurst, as well as Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Now Julie Moore, organiser of last month's meeting and another staged last night, has received a reply from Number 10 in which Mr Blair thanked the villagers for bringing the situation to his attention.

The letter, written on Mr Blair's behalf by the direct communications unit, said the Prime Minister had carefully noted the views in the letter and asked it to be forwarded to the Home Office, instructing officials to reply to the points raised.

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Ms Moore added: "We are very grateful to Prime Minister Tony Blair for taking the time and trouble to acknowledge our situation in Colne Engaine, let alone reply to our letter.

"The fact that he has also instructed that the Home Office looks at the situation is quite remarkable especially when you put that against the abysmal response we have sadly received to date from our local police.

"Perhaps now we can be hopeful that a proper and in-depth investigation will begin."

Insp Tony Sale, of Halstead police, said: "We are doing all we can to look into the matter for them but it has to fit in with other priorities."

He added that his local police officer had been involved in investigating the problem from the beginning and both of them had also talked to Ms Moore on a number of occasions and would continue to do so.

Mr Sale said the only meeting his officer had missed had been the last one but his unit was called out to a burglary where they arrested burglars and seized stolen property. The officer had to then return to custody.

"It is not often that you catch a burglar like this and this obviously takes a bit of time and must take priority. But we are taking the villagers' complaints seriously," he added.

Twenty cats disappeared in 2001 and it is thought a similar number vanished last year. Some people believe the phenomenon has being going on for a decade

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