French investigators have made numerous arrests since a macabre series of attacks left scores of horses mutilated or killed this year and have opened more than 150 investigations into such cases, the interior minister said Monday.
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin announced the start of night patrols by gendarmes to reassure horse owners and to try to nab attackers. He said police have opened 153 investigations on the horse attacks, about 30 of them concerning deaths or “extremely violent injuries.” There are no known breakthroughs.
He warned owners against taking justice into their own hands.
“The drama within the drama would be an owner ... wanting to take vengeance, do justice, take out his rifle, fight with someone who goes after his horses,” he said.
The minister spoke after visiting the owner of a horse who was a victim of the mysterious attacks in the Oise region, north of Paris. He refused to comment on the only arrest reported in the French media hours earlier in eastern France.
Knives have been used to slash the horses and, in some cases, mutilate them, with organs sometimes removed. A horse's face was disfigured in one case and blood was drained in another. Often a right ear is cut off like a trophy.
A man was being questioned in the Haut-Rhin region of eastern France regarding a late August attack in Burgundy, after the head of an animal refuge went after two men slashing two of his ponies. Nicolas Demajean's arm was slashed as he wrangled with one of the attackers and police produced a composite drawing based on his description.
The man held for questioning is reportedly 50 and has no connection to horses, according to the Le Parisien newspaper.
For authorities, it's clear there are numerous attackers going after horses around the country but investigators don't know if the attackers are carrying out cult-like rituals, acting in copycat style or answering a morbid “challenge” on social media.
“No one line is being favoured,” Darmanin said of the investigations.