Horse Mutilation and Satanic Panic – A Developing Narrative

Yesterday’s Cornish horse mutilation story has seen further developments over night, not in terms of evidence or progress with the ongoing police investigation, but rather in terms of further elaboration on the supposed ‘Satanic’ aspects of the story, as it is being presented in the media. While journalists on some newspapers, and at the BBC, have been content just to run with this angle, I’ve been using my own time more productively to research the background to the story and track its development, all of which provides some useful insights into the kind of crap that, today, too often passes for accepted, and acceptable, journalistic practice.

To begin with a little background information on horse mutilation, itself.

Often referred to as either ‘horse ripping’ or ‘horse slashing’, violent attacks on horse are – sadly – far from uncommon. There were, for example, 160 such incidents reported in the UK between 1983 and 1993 and around 300 reported incidents in Germany between 1992 and 1998.

Convictions for horse mutilation are relatively rare although, in 2005, a 49 year old man was convicted, in the Netherlands, of the murder of a homeless person and the mutilation of a number of sheep, horses and ponies over a four year period during which the perpetrator, Rudolf K, was on test release from a secure psychiatric institution. In carry out these attacks, which psychiatrists believed were motivated by a combination of uncontrolled anger and sexual frustration, K removed the genitals of his victims, including those of the homeless man he murdered in a park in Enschede in 2003.

Although occultism is often put forward as a possible motive for these kinds of attacks, I haven’t been able to find any records of verified cases of occult ritual mutilations. Most animal mutilations appear to be the work of other animals – in one such case, which occurred in Prima County, Arizona, a reported ‘horse ripping’ turned out, on investigation, to have been caused by nothing more sinister than another horse – and where it has been established that a human was responsible for such an attack, the motive for the attack has been found to be altogether more mundane; i.e. jealousy, professional rivalry and/or a personal grudge/feud.

In short, there is no concrete evidence to show that horse, or other animal, mutilations are the work of either occultists, or aliens, this being the other popular ‘myth’ that surround such incident, particularly in relation to the mutilation of cattle in the United States.

So, getting back to the specifics of this story, what we have is a brutal attack on a horse in which, so its reported, the unfortunate animal was killed and mutilated by way of the removal of its genitals, teeth and its right eye. Some early reports suggested that the horse had been sedated prior to the attack, although others have suggested that the horse also has injuries consistent with the use of taser to stun the horse before the perpetrator(s) got down to their grisly work.

As for when the attack took place, the official statement put out by the police gave the following information:

Between about 4pm on Sunday 8th January and midday on Monday 9th January, a stallion was attacked, mutilated and killed in a field in the Stithians area.   A mare and foal were left in the field unharmed.  A vet attended the scene and confirmed that the stallion was deceased.

Police are requesting those in rural areas remain vigilant to anyone acting suspiciously and if they have any concerns contact Devon and Cornwall Police.  Police and the RSPCA are carrying out enquiries in the area & request anyone with any information contact them on telephone number 101 quoting reference GP/12/66.

As the actual time of the attack has yet to be determined, what the police have given here is standard information based on the approximate time that the horse was last seen alive, presumably by its owner – around 4pm on Sunday 8th January – and the time that the corpse of the horse was discovered – midday on Monday 9th January.

And those are the facts of the case so far.

As noted yesterday, almost all of running on this story, in terms of further journalistic development, has been made a local news website Cornwall Community News – which is run by a local freelance copywriter, Mark Roberts, whose personal CV includes a two year period (1998-2000) as a District Correspondent for the now-defunct News of the World. Without wishing to sound too disparaging, a district correspondent is nothing more than a freelancer who feeds local stories to the nationals in return for per line payments if the paper choose to runs their story, most of the stories they supply are used as filler but if a bigger story breaks on their patch they they may be used as a Johnny-on-the-Spot reported until a full-time journalist can make the trip from London to take over the story.

CCN’s first stab at reporting this story, which appeared at 10:29pm on Monday 9th January, was more or less factual if presented in a typically tabloid style under the headline ‘You Sick Freak!‘ and it puts the date and time of the attack at ‘some time between Sunday and today (Monday)’ in addition to including the specific timings given by the police statement (4pm Sunday and midday Monday).

It then kicked off its follow-up coverage, which introduced the ‘Satanism’ angle in an article published, originally, at 6:56pm on Tuesday 10th January.

The development of this article over the last couple of days is a little difficult to follow, as it has been extensively revised on at least three occasions since its first publication, with substantial changes made to both the headling and text of the article – and yes, my bad, I should have used Freezepage – but as I’ve been been following this story pretty closely I can reconstruct its development through three revisions from memory in order to show which additional details have been added, and in some cases, removed at each revision.

Version 1 of this article ran with the headlines ‘The Work of the Devil?’ and ‘The Work of Satan’ and included the claim that the attack had taken place on Saturday 7th January rather than the evening/morning of the 8th/9th. It also included the claim that the 7th January is a ‘Satanic’ ritual day called St Winebald’s Day and stated that speculation about the occult connections had originated on internet forums and quoted the police inspector in charge of the inquiry has having not ruled this out as a ‘possibility’. Its this version of the story that prompted me to start investigating the background to this case for the article I published yesterday.

Version 2 appeared at some point while I was actually writing up my own article. The carried an amended headline referring to a second case of horse mutilation, an attack on a Shetland Pony some five years ago, which suggested that this attack may also have had some sort of ‘satanic’ connection and included comments made by the owner of this second horse, Rosemary Penn. The article indicated that this additional attack had been investigated by police, at the time, without any success in identifying a perpetrator.

In this version of the CCN story, it was stated that the attack on Penn’s Shetland Pony took place in December*, and not on January 7th, i.e. the allegedly Satantic date of St Winebald’s Day, but no specific date was given.

*As noted yesterday, the real feast day of St Winebald is actually December 18th.

A search on Google’s News archives turns up nothing at all in relation to this earlier attack although Penn does turn up in two reports from October 2011 as the owner of a prize-winning horse which earned a place at the annual Horse of the Year Show. If this attack received any media attention at the time, it wasn’t in the national press and this in turn suggests that it is highly unlikely that it exhibited any unusual or newsworthy features, i.e. specualtion about occult connections.

Version 3, which I picked up on at around 11pm last night included an account of the 2004 murder of a Cornish Parish Councillor, Peter Solhiem, who was known to have had a personal interest in the occult. The BBC report from 2004 states that Solheim was ‘interest in black magic’ when, in fact he was a pagan and a member of a ‘Druidic community’. In 2006, his lover of nine years, Margaret James, was convicted of conspiring to murder Solheim, who had continued a 20 year relationship with another woman through the entire period of his involvement with James, and sentenced to 20 years imprisonment. Although two 38 year old men were arrested and placed on police bail in connection with the Solheim murder in February 2009, they were subsequently released without charge and, to date, the person(s) who carried out the actual killing have not been identified.

All information relating to the Solheim case has since been removed from the latest version of the CCN article, all of which seems to indictate that its was included solely a means of elaborating on the stories allegedly ‘satanic’ angle by way of provide general ‘evidence’ of occult goings-on in Cornwall, even though there is absolutely no connection between Peter Solheim’s murder and the curernt case of horse mutilation.

This brings me to version 4 of the CCN story, which I have grabbed using Freezepage, which now sports the headline ‘COPS SAY DEVIL-RITUAL ‘STRONG POSSIBILITY’.

Version 4 is heavy on quotes from both Rosemary Penn, who now appears to be convinced that her Shetland Pony was attacked by Satanists and the date of both attacks is now claim to have been 7th January:

Police are probing the ’strong possibility’ that the shocking mutilation of a horse over the weekend was a ritual sacrifice to the Devil

Dawn Jewell’s two-year-old Stallion Erik was horrifically butchered by a ‘psychopath’ who cut out the animals genitalia this Sunday night.

The stomach-churning butchery happened at the height of a full moon, and the day after Satanic Holiday ‘St Winebalds Day’, which fell on Saturday 7th.

Today a second horse owner, Rosemary Penn, from Bodmin, told how she lost a gelding in the exact same bizarre and cruel fashion, also on January 7th.

Although apocryphal in origin, Satanists have adopted ‘St Winebalds Days as an occasion of ‘blood rituals, dismemberment, animal or human sacrifice’.

It features in a number of ‘Satanic Calendars’, and cops are considering the theory a group of sadists chose the occasion, together with that of the full moon, to strike.

It at least appears that CCN has picked up on my article from yesterday, in which I demonstrated that the ‘Satanic’ version of St Winebald’s Day, and the ritual calendars from which its taken, are both modern fabrications created by fundamentalist Christian ‘witch-hunters’ during the ‘Satanic Panic’ of the late 1980’s – to add to the Witchvox article that I linked to, yesterday, there’s also a very good article on the origins of these fabricated ritual calendars at the Religious Tolerance website which provides this assessment of the credibility problems these calendars exhibit:

None of the authors list the correct number (3) of holidays.

– None of the authors list all of the names correctly.

– Many authors have simply taken Wiccan holidays and attributed them to Satanists.

– Most writers can only agree on Halloween as one of the ritual days.

– Roman Catholic writers link Satanic holidays to Roman Catholic holy days; Protestant authors link them to Protestant holy days.

– There is no agreement as to which seasonal celebrations are the most important.

– There is no agreement concerning the day of the week for regular meetings.

– Many authors appear to be copying dates from other conservative Protestant or Roman Catholic books or from common sources.

Unfortunately, rather than back off from their Satanic Panic narrative, CCN has chosen to weave this information into the story by making the wholly unevidenced claim that these dates have been ‘adopted’ by Satanists.

To reiterate the point, these ritual calendars aren’t of an ‘apocryphal’ origin – they are outright fakes and are closely associated with a variety of wild conspiracy theories including one which claims that the word ‘Wicca’ is an acronym of “Witches International Coven Council Association”, a secret international organisation with, inevitably, a plan for world domination – it must be the cats that gave the game away because everyone knows that its impossible to take over the world unless you’re stroking a cat; it’s the rules.

In classic tabloid fashion, version 4 even includes the classic ‘caveat in paragraph 19‘ trick, although its actually starts at paragraph 65 where, after claiming at the beginning, and further down, that the attacks took place on 7th January, the article then repeats the police  statement which put the current incident as having taken place on the 8th/9th January.

So, bearing all that in mind, what is actually going on here?

Well, the first thing to clear up is this whether or not talk of a ‘satanic element’ to this story genuinely did emerge from chatter on internet forums, and the answer does seem to be that – in a very limited sense – it did as I did manage to track down one such forum posting that predates the start of CCN’s Satanic Panic coverage.

This message was posted by ‘Jobo’ at the Arabian Lines forum (as in horses) at 2:46pm on 10 January –

hi everyone,this sounds alot like black magic ritual collecting to me. they use the different parts for different spells etc. you wouldnt believe this is the world you live in would you????. it is indeed very worrying to say the least. but like i have said before i did find a page on fb about horse haters and you wouldnt think anyone would put there name to such a thing!?

well nobody in there right mind anyway. it doesnt sound like its personal as the two incidents are simmilar but far apart i gues thats more worrying as anyone could be a target i spose? when will these things end what will it take? i wish i had the ansewer but these things make me more angry then you know. but i tell ya that if i caught which i hope i never do for there sake it would be there last. its about time there was a special incident opened on this by the police o know they have a lot to do but this sounds like its getting worse and worse,i will share this story in the hope paople near will be informed. but i do believe that there is only one punishment for these crimes,because if this is what they can do to trusting animals who knows what they are doing or gonna do to others! they have to be stoped at source,and pay for there crimes properly some may not agree. RIP TO THOSE POOR INOCENT ANIMALS AND THERE OWNERS WHO WILL NEVER BE THE SAME AGAIN,I FEEL FOR YOU,GOD BLESS. just had alook to see if there were anymore info on attacks and there was the same attacks between 83-93 over 160 horses were mutilated no convictions were ever brought. they were known as the “horse rippers” because of the sexual injurys. lets hope they catch them.

As you can see, Jobo’s ‘source’ for their ‘black magic’ theory is a Facebook page about ‘horse haters’ – and until CCN started to run its ‘Satanic’ angle, that’s all the discussion there is as Jobo was fairly rapidly put in their place by a much more senior forum member, Judith S, who responded with –

Should we not wait until the PM has been carried out and react to the facts rather than the speculation.

Quite.

Even the David Icke forums eschewed any thoughts of Satanic involvement until CCN opened up that narrative, with members preferring to put the whole thing down to aliens (naturally) – although last time I checked, one or two members had got on to the tricky question of whether it was the aliens who were blaming Satanists for animal mutilations to cover up their activities, or vice versa.

So we do have one reference to ‘black magic’ on a forum before CCN ran its Satanist angle but no mention, specifically, of Satanist or of St Winebald’s day in connection with this incident until version 1 of the CCN article appeared late on Tuesday 10th January.

Then there’s actual attack on the horse, where the removal of its teeth points to a human assailant – if we’re to rule out Satanists then what other possibilities are there?

At this stage, some sort of psychosexual motive is possible, as it plain old fashioned revenge and rivalry, but because the teeth have been removed from the animal there remains a further possibility – theft.

No, not of the horse’ teeth and genitals but of the horse itself. Our dead stallion may not be Eric the stallion after all.

Okay, it all depends entirely on whether Eric has been fitted with an ID chip or has other identifying marks which cannot easily be reproduced/faked but if this isn’t the case then the removal of the horse teeth would, at least to begin with, prevent vets from quickly ascertaining the actual age of the horse by examining its teeth and this raises the possibility  that Eric may have actually been stolen and replaced, literally, by a dead ringer – in which case, of course, the mutilation of the dead horse was carried out to throw the police off the scent and send them off on a wild goose chase.

That might all sound a bit Agatha Christie, but its possibilty that cannot, as yet, be ruled out based on the information that’s available about the case and as possibilities go, at this stage, I’d happily argue that its,  at the very least no less plausible than CCN’s ‘Satanic ritual’ hypothesis.

Finally we come to the ‘Satanic ritual’ story itself and for this what we can say, based on the the evidence to hand, is that although the proposition of a ‘black magic’ element to the story does arise before CCN started to run it Satanic Panic angle, pretty much everything else in that angle appear to have originated with the coverage given to the story by Mark Roberts at his Cornwall Community News Website.

That includes the specific suggestion that this incident was the work of Satanist, as opposed to cultists, pagans, witches or any other new age group, the introduction of the fabricated ‘Satanic’  version of St Winebald’s Day into the story together with, in the latest version, further details culled from these faked ‘Satanic’ calendars, copies of which are easily obtained via the Internet and, most suggestively of all, there’s the apparent alteration of the dates on which both this attack, and the attack on the Shetland Pony of five years ago, are claimed to have taken place to fit, exactly, into the St Winebald’s Day narrative – all of which appears for first time in copy produced by a freelance copywriter with prior experience of working for what was once the UK’s biggest Sunday tabloid; copy for which the standard payment is made by the line if it finds its was into the national newspapers.

To me – and this is purely a matter of opinion – that looks a hell of lot like a freelance journalist ‘adding value’ to a story based on nothing more than wild speculation and conjecture and then milking it for every payment per line its worth, and never mind that the facts of the case have ceased to be facts and have instead, become entirely malleable elements of a story one-shot filler story that’s been shoehorned into a much more saleable narrative.

In the circumstances, one can only hope that the police can manage to maintain a clear sense of perspective in the course of pursuing their inquiries and that they don’t find themselves being led on a wild goose chase. Even without the dubious ‘Satanic’ angle, this remains a particularly unpleasant crime and one for which the perpetrator(s) fully deserve to be brought to justice.

As for me – well let’s just say that I hadn’t intended to make any kind of submission to the Leveson Inquiry but, from what I can see of the way in which this ‘story’ has developed, that may well change over the next few days. For now, I’ll give ti some thought and maintain a watching brief over this particular story, just to see where – if anywhere – it goes from here.

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  • Neuro Skeptic

    The case of the murder of Peter Solhiem surely goes to show that while the media love to talk up “The Black Magic Angle”, it is rarely actually relevant.

    Solheim was into the occult but his murder had nothing to do with that, it was all about a classic lover’s tiff.

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  • Moiya Clark

    I wanted to reply to this because I’m just a person that loves animals, all animals. This attack has left me sickened and very upset. I just want the being that perpetrated this horrific act to be caught. I don’t care whatever reason Mark Roberts had for writing his headlines. You are suggesting he did for publicity for himself, but it doesn’t really matter. All most people want is for someone to be held to account, if only to stop it happening again. What it really needs is a red-top to get interested in the story and offer a very sizeable reward for information.
    I gather a local businessman has offered £2,000 but this is not enough to get the worms out of the can. I don’t have the contacts to get in touch with “Fleet Street” and that is what it needs. Mark Roberts should know people to get in contact with and maybe it is through him that something could be done. I’m sorry but money is usually the way to get information so I really think he should be encouraged to go along this route. I don’t care about all his salacious headlines but he should be trying to do something more positive about getting someone caught. I have e-mailed people, trying to get some funding for a reward but without success at the moment. I won’t stop trying.   

  • Mrbloggs76

    Very interesting read, If the “real” Eric was stolen I’m sure the police would of checked CCTV in local areas. It’s not as if you can just walk away with a stolen horse on your arm. However, I do believe there is more to this story!! I have said this from the very start!!!!!!

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