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Thursday, July 14, 2016

Missy, Who Was Too Kindly Disposed Toward Humans for Her Own Good, Is Memorialized in Wood at the Bus Stop That She Called Her Home Away from Home for Almost a Decade

Missy Lives on in a Wooden Replica of Her at the Bus Stop in Leigh Park 

"Missy was always at the bus stop. Everyone that caught a bus from there knew her. Missy loved attention and was so friendly toward people who were waiting for the bus. I'm sure people liked stroking her as they waited."
-- Richard McCormick

It was a sad day back in early June when an aggrieved owner, local dignitaries, and assorted well-wishers gathered at the bus stop on Dunsbury Way outside the Leigh Park Housing Estate in Havant, one -hundred-thirteen kilometers south of London in Hampshire, in order to commemorate the life and times of a thirteen-year-old brown and white female named Missy. For the past nine to ten years, she had been a regular fixture at the bus patron shelter in front of the Leigh Park Community Centre
where she would bide her days sleeping on either the bench or in the laps of obliging commuters of Stagecoach South's number thirty-nine line.

It therefore did not take long before she had earned the sobriquet of being the "Bus Stop Cat." All of that is in the rearview mirror now and those who assembled at the old familiar bus stop on that solemn occasion were not there to take either a trip or even to socialize with her; rather, they had come in order to be on hand for the unveiling of a life-sized replica of her that had been carved out of sequoia.

It rests slightly to the side of the shelter and on top of a new oaken bench that was constructed by local chainsaw sculptor Chris Bain. A metal plaque fastened to it reads: "Missy the Cat Loved by All at 39 Bus Stop."

"Missy was loved by everyone in Leigh Park and now they have something to remember her by," Mayor Faith Ponsonby told The News of Portsmouth on June 7th. (See "Missy the Cat's Memory Lives on in New Sculpture.") "It's great to see how Missy brought this community together. It is typical of the people of Leigh Park."

There cannot be any disputing that she, for a variety of reasons, meant a great deal to so many people in the community. "Not a lot of people are allowed to have pets and I have concerns that we need to look out for elderly lonely people," she added to the BBC on June 7th. (See "Memorial Unveiled in Havant for 'Bus Stop' Cat Missy.") "For children, to stroke her was something they could look forward to every day."

Missy's owner, seventy-three-year-old retired railway worker and ex-serviceman Richard McCormick, was not only pleased that she had been immortalized but he also was humbled by the outpouring of support that the project had engendered. "After I had fed her every morning she would be out there on the bus stop welcoming everyone and being her friendly self," he told The News. "I can't thank everyone enough. We've been overwhelmed by the support, with donations coming from as far as America."

 Bain, Ponsonby, Cockram, and McCormick at the Unveiling  

Contributions additionally came in from as far afield as China and Australia so that in the end more than £5,000 were donated to the project. Since slightly less than £2,000 of that total were required for both the sculpture and the bench, McCormick and his sixty-nine-year-old spouse, retired factory worker Clara, have designated that the remainder be given to the RSPCA and The Cat and Rabbit Rescue Centre in Chichester, eighteen kilometers to the east in West Sussex.

It was not the McCormicks, however, who initiated the fundraising appeal but rather forty-nine-year-old Leigh Park resident Craig Cockram who came to know Missy through his rôle as one of Stagecoach South's drivers on the number thirty-nine line. "It's been amazing just how much money was raised, which allowed the bench to be built, and even raise some extra money for charity," he exulted to The News.

She not only made quite an impression upon him but she had an equivalent affect on many other drivers as well. "Missy was always there at the bus stop come rain or shine. I have been with Stagecoach for three years and Missy was there long before me, about ten years," he added to the London Metro on June 8th. (See "Animal-Lovers Raise £5,000 for Memorial of Beloved Bus Stop Cat Killed in Hit and Run (sic).") "People still talk about her. A few of the drivers talk about how she would sit with people and sometimes she would follow the bus before going back to sit down again."

Thanks to his efforts and those of others, Missy is therefore destined to live on in considerably more than just the memories of the riders of the number thirty-nine bus. "I shall look forward to sitting in the sun on the bench, alongside the carving of Missy, and chatting to Missy's friends," Ponsonby declared to the London Metro.

As halcyon as all of that may be, it never will be able to completely obliterate the horrifying reality that she would still be alive today and greeting commuters as usual if she had not been victimized by a simply diabolical act of animal cruelty. Specifically, back on January 29th one or more individuals are believed to have repeatedly kicked her about the face in a brazen daylight attack.

Rushed to an unidentified local veterinarian, she was diagnosed to have suffered not only a fractured skull but her jaw had been broken in two places. All of her teeth, except two, had been knocked out and she was hemorrhaging from both her mouth and one of her eyes.

Commuters Left Flowers and Messages at an Impromptu Memorial 

As it almost always turns out to be the case with such attacks, the McCormicks elected to have the attending practitioners snuff out her life as opposed to mounting a last-ditch effort to have saved her. "The vets did not know whether they could save the eye and she was in a lot of pain and the best thing was to put her to sleep but my mum and dad were distraught," their forty-eight-year-old daughter, Karen Wells of Waterlooville, nine kilometers north of Havant, told The Mirror of London on February 1st. (See "Heartbroken Commuters Pay Tribute to 'Bus Stop Cat' as She Dies after Brutal Attack.")

It therefore is impossible to know if she could have been saved. The only thing known for certain is that doing so would have been terribly expensive and that usually is a deal breaker for the vast majority of cat owners. Missy also would have been forced to have undergone not only multiple surgeries but an extensive convalescence as well.

It likewise never has been revealed either what was done with her remains or if a memorial service was held for her. That is not any trifling matter in that all cats deserve far better than to have their remains casually thrown out in the trash.

In the aftermath of her murder, commuters and residents of Leigh Park responded by erecting an impromptu roadside memorial in her honor that consisted of bouquets of flowers, messages of condolence, paintings, and children's drawings. Others turned to social media in order to express their grief and that in turn led to Cockram's effort to establish a lasting memorial in her honor.

Predictably, neither the pleadings of the McCormick clan nor those of Missy's dozens of admirers were sufficient in order to stir either the police or local animal protection groups to go after her killers. For instance, the Hampshire Police contented itself by appealing to the public to intervene and thus do its job for it.

Initially, it was unclear whether she had been kicked to death or run down by a motorist, but the severity and nature of her injuries quickly settled that issue in Wells' mind. "That cat was not run over, somebody has kicked her or done something," she declared to The Mirror.

One of the More Poignant Condolences Left in Memory of Missy

The galling reality that the culprits have gotten away scot-free with their hideous crime, quite understandably, still rankles Wells. "It is horrible. The person or people who did this need to be brought to justice," she added to The Mirror. "I know there will be people saying 'get a grip, it's a cat' but it's a living creature. You do not kick and attack a defenseless animal."

Her father was considerably less diplomatic. "The swine, how can anybody do that to a poor little animal?" he exclaimed to The Mirror.

It goes almost without saying that Missy's murder has had a traumatic effect upon the elderly McCormicks who cared for her the last nine years of her life. "It is not acceptable behavior, it makes me so cross to know not only what was done to Missy but how it has impacted on my mum and dad," Wells added to The Mirror. "I just want somebody held accountable."

Quite obviously, that is not about to happen. Even more deplorably, there does not appear to be any power on earth strong enough in order to persuade either the police or phony-baloney animal rights groups to take cruelty to cats seriously.

Although socialization is generally considered to be a good character trait for a cat, it also is indisputable that it is precisely the friendly ones, such as Missy, that are subjected to the most persistent and horrendous forms of abuse. "Missy was always at the bus stop. Everyone that caught a bus from there knew her," McCormick averred to The Mirror. "Missy loved attention and was so friendly toward people who were waiting for the bus. I'm sure people liked stroking her as they waited."

It thus would appear in hindsight that her attackers were laying for her. They waited until no one was around and then they methodically proceeded to kick her to death.


Cat owners and lovers in the neighborhood accordingly need to be vigilant, especially when it comes to the nefarious activities of young males. They have gotten away with killing Missy but that does not necessarily have to be the case with other cats.

Missy's murder also refocuses attention once again on the perplexing dilemma of allowing cats to go unsupervised while outdoors. Although there is not any satisfactory answer to this problem, the mere fact that Missy was able to have spent her days at the bus stop for the past decade without, as far as it is known, having been previously attacked attests to the fact that the area used to be a safe haven for cats.

All of that has changed with her murder, however, and residents therefore need to rethink the wisdom of allowing their cats outside without supervision. The situation would be entirely different if the police somehow could be prevailed upon to bring those responsible for Missy's death to justice but that is not in  the cards.

As far as she is concerned, only McCormick and his wife know for sure if they did all that was in their power in order to have safeguarded her fragile life. Anecdotal evidence suggests, however, that they had a difficult time of keeping tabs on her. "She was a very friendly cat, so friendly that sometimes my dad couldn't get her indoors because she liked getting all the fuss outside," Wells disclosed to The Mirror.

The Genuine Article Is Always Far Superior to Any Artifice

Along that same line, many devout cat lovers gladly would part with a king's ransom in order to know exactly what their beloved companions want out of life. The only thing that can be deduced from Missy's behavior is that she obviously was getting something at the bus stop that was missing from her life at home.

Generally speaking, cats that are fortunate enough to have owners who not only dote on them but also feed them well want to spend considerable time at their sides but even that is not always the case. Hopefully, the McCormicks did not either ignore or neglect Missy's pressing needs but only they know the answer to that riddle.

Even though the English dearly cherish their bus-riding cats, neither their motor coaches, depots, nor bus stops are safe venues for them. In addition to the risk of being run down and killed by bus drivers and other motorists, cats also easily can be either lost or stolen once they are abandoned to their own devices under such perilous circumstances. (See Cat Defender posts of April 19, 2007, August 27, 2009, January 30, 2010, January 25, 2012, and August 27, 2014 entitled, respectively, "Bus-Hopping Macavity Earns High Praise from His Fellow Commuters for Being the 'Perfect Passenger'," "Casper Treats Himself to an Unescorted Tour Around Plymouth Courtesy of the Number Three Bus," "Casper Is Run Down and Killed by a Hit-and-Run Taxi Driver While Crossing the Street in Order to Get to the Bus Stop," "The Innocence of the Lambs: Unaware of the Dangers That Threaten His Very Existence, Dodger Charms Commuters on the Bridport to Charmouth Line," and "After Traveling for So Many Miles on the Bridport to Charmouth Bus, Dodger's Last Ride Is, Ironically, to the Vet Who Unconscionably Snuffs Out His Precious Life at the Urging of His Derelict Owner.")

It is all well and good that the residents of Leigh Park have chosen to keep Missy's memory alive but at the same time it is important to bear in mind that a wooden sculpture is a poor substitute for the genuine article. Such acts, no matter how well intentioned, also serve to both camouflage and to ultimately dismiss from public consciousness other disturbing realities.

The most glaring of which is the inexcusable failure of all societies to take cruelty to cats seriously. The second equally disturbing truth is the abject failure of owners, such as the McCormicks, to properly provide for the personal safety of their resident felines.

In that light, the extra £3,000 that were raised for Missy's memorial arguably could have been better spent employing a private detective to have looked into her death as opposed to having gone into the coffers of a do-nothing animal protection group such as the RSPCA. Such an undertaking, if successful, would have perhaps not only spared the lives of other cats but it also would have sent a clear and unmistakable message to all cat abusers that such heinous acts are no longer going to be tolerated.

Cats as rare as Missy are not easily replaced and for that reason it is highly improbable that things will be quite the same ever again at the Leigh Park bus stop. For a brief interlude in time, however, she succeeded in transforming the mundane into the magical and no amount of either wood or fond remembrances is going to bring that back.

Photos: the London Metro (the memorial), Sarah Standing of The News (attendees), The Mirror (impromptu roadside memorial and Missy up close), and Craig Cockram (Missy asleep at the bus stop).