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Cat Defender

Exposing the Lies and Crimes of Bird Advocates, Wildlife Biologists, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, PETA, the Humane Society of the United States, Exterminators, Vivisectors, the Scientific Community, Fur Traffickers, Cloners, Breeders, Designer Pet Purveyors, Hoarders, Motorists, the United States Military, and Other Ailurophobes

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The Hunt for Runa's Sadistic Killer Takes an Unexpected and Bizarre Turn but, Owing to the Polizei's Refusal to Take the Case Seriously, an Arrest Remains a Long Shot

Runa and Jordana Rebmann in Happier Days

"Die Wahrscheinlichkeit ist aber klein, dass der Fall aufgeklärt wird."
-- Bernhard Graser von die Kantonspolizei Aargau

Even under the very best of circumstances the wheels of justice grind agonizingly slowly. When it comes to cats that have been victimized by abusers, however, it is almost impossible for their owners and supporters to attract even the tiniest bit of attention from those who are charged with enforcing the anti-cruelty statutes and what was done to a beautiful three-year-old gray Norwegian Forest Cat-British Shorthair-mix named Runa from Oberrohrdorf, thirty kilometers north of Zurich, last November 17th is an infuriating example of such gross malfeasance and indifference.

On that date, she was abducted, savagely beaten to death, and then decapitated. Even that outrageous atrocity was not sufficient in order to assuage her killer's hatred; on the contrary, as soon as he had finished with Runa he immediately went after her owners as well.

He did so by transporting, most likely by foot, Runa's still warm and bleeding torso to Buacherstraße 6 where he dumped it in the garden of fifty-nine-year-old Jordana Rebmann. Her husband, Jörg, made the grisly discovery some time later when he ventured out of doors.

Brazen beyond belief, the killer returned to the Rebmanns' Grundstück a day later in order to deposit Runa's collar in the hedge. Given that the Halsband was the type that can only be removed by cutting it in two, the fact that it was still intact demonstrated that it either had fallen off or been removed after her head had been severed.

Press reports are not specific, but at about that same time a next-door neighbor of the Rebmanns also found Runa's name tag. It is far from clear but presumably it was retrieved from somewhere near the boundary line that separates the two residences.

The rather obvious conclusion to be drawn from those twin discoveries is that Runa's killer made at least two and possibly three trips to the Rebmanns' house. He quite obviously wanted to make them fully aware of not only what he had done to their cat but also that he knew their names and address as well.

In the aftermath of the killing, Frau Rebmann took Runa's remains to an unidentified veterinarian for a necropsy which revealed that she had sustained multiple injuries and internal bleeding before she was decapitated. What else, if anything, that the attending veterinarian learned from his examination of her remains has not been released to the public.

Rebmann also wasted no time in notifying the Kantonspolizei Aargau but that utterly worthless authority apparently did absolutely nothing beyond letting fly with a few perfunctory statements. For instance, it is highly doubtful that it even bothered to collect forensic evidence from Runa's fur, teeth, and claws.

It likewise is highly improbable that her collar and name tag were dusted for fingerprints. Furthermore, there is absolutely nothing in the public record to indicate that the Rebmanns' garden was treated as a crime scene and gone over thoroughly for blood, footprints, and other forensic evidence.

Longtime Gemeindeammann Kurt Scherer issued a statement condemning the killing but since then there has not been anything from him that would tend to indicate that either he or his fellow politicians have lifted so much as a lousy finger in order to bring Runa's killer to justice. Developments in this tragic case are difficult to follow from afar, but as best as it could be determined not a single animal protection group in the entire canton of Aargau has either opened an investigation into this matter or offered a reward for information that might lead to the apprehension of the perpetrator.

The Rebmanns and their two children accordingly have been abandoned by the authorities to their shock, grief, and unallayed fears. As a result, Frau Rebmann suffered a nervous breakdown at work shortly after Runa was killed and had to be driven home by a co-worker. Her children likewise have been left traumatized.

With the police and animal protection groups in Aargua being the worthless and uncaring sods that they are everywhere else in this world, this story appeared to be at an end. Runa's killer never was going to be caught and the Rebmanns had been left to persevere as best they could under simply horrible circumstances.

The criminal investigation into Runa's killing, which never actually became open and active in the first place, now was permanently closed, filed away, and forgotten by the authorities. The holidays came and went and almost three months had been crossed off the calendar when, during either the first or second week of February, the long dead and all but forgotten case once again sprang to life in a totally unexpected and bizarre fashion.

Acting upon a tip, presumably anonymous, the Kantonspolizei Aargau returned unexpectedly to the Rebmanns' Grundstück where they, reportedly, found the murder weapon. The nature of the Tatwaffe, where it was found, and how that the Polizei determined that it was indeed the instrument that had been used in order to put an end to Runa's short life have not been publicly disclosed.

"Vor wenigen Tagen haben wir einen entscheidenden Hinweis erhalten und in der Folge die mutmassliche Tatwaffe sicherstellen können," was all that Bernhard Graser of the force was willing to divulge to the Aargauer Zeitung on February 15th. (See "Fall der geköpften Katze Runa: Polizei findet die Tatwaffe.")

Far from being an unqualified good, that startling development raises far more questions than it answers. First of all, if the Polizei had been willing to have done their due diligence they surely would have found the weapon at the outset. Secondly, how did its presence escape the attention of the Rebmanns and their next-door neighbors for so long?

Those considerations segue into the third question of who it was that actually found it and under what circumstances. It possibly could have been that a kid retrieving an errant ball had accidentally stumbled upon it but that somehow does not seem all that plausible under the circumstances.

Fourthly, the identity of the tipster also is problematic. In the United States, and presumably Switzerland as well, the police allow all incoming telephone calls to ring for a long time so that they can trace them. By the time that they finally do pick up they already know the location of the caller and whether he is using a landline or a mobile device.

Letters likewise can be traced via their postmarks, the type of stationery used, the sender's handwriting, fingerprints, and other forensic clues. It is not always possible to make an arrest based solely upon such meager data but they do provide officers with numerous leads to pursue.

Fifthly and perhaps most perplexing of all, how did the Polizei determine that the weapon found either on or near the Rebmanns' property was the one that had been used in order to kill Runa? Since it presumably had been lying out in the cold, rain, snow, and ice for so many months, it is difficult to believe that it still could have had even trace amounts of blood and fur left on it that the Polizei could have used in order to have made a DNA comparison.

"If a body is left out in the sun and rain, its DNA will be useful for testing for only a few weeks," Slate reported on February 5, 2013. (See "What's the Shelf-Life of DNA?")

While it is certainly possible that DNA found on steel and metal objects could be considerably more durable, especially if it had been shielded somewhat from the elements by, say, lying in a culvert, that constitutes only half of the equation. In order to be of any use to investigators, that DNA would still need to be compared with some that had been taken from Runa's remains and there is absolutely nothing in the public record to even suggest that any was taken by either the Polizei or the veterinarian who performed the necropsy.

Sixthly, there is the grisly issue of exactly how that Runa was killed and how many weapons that her killer used in the commission of that heinous crime. The most logical starting point is that he trapped her and that usually requires a cage.

Given that Runa was said to have been a very friendly cat, it is remotely conceivable that she knew her killer and thus unwittingly walked into his lair but that is considerably less likely. It likewise goes almost without saying that it is almost impossible for a stranger to capture a cat with his bare hands.

The only other possibility that readily comes to mind is that she could have been killed by either a bullet or an arrow fired directly into her head and the decapitated afterwards. That possibility also could help to explain why that her killer did not return her severed head with her torso.

Jordana Rebmann at the Spot Where Runa's Torso Was Found

After the perpetrator had successfully lured Runa into a cage, he likely next took her into either his house or garage so that he could carry out his cleverly hatched plan in privacy and far removed from the prying eyes and ears of his neighbors. His next move likely involved opening her cage and then clubbing her over the head one or more times with either a hammer or some other blunt object.

Even in confined quarters a cat is still capable of putting up quite a spirited struggle and that possibly could account for the multiple external injuries and internal bleeding that Runa sustained. While fighting for her life, she also may have been able to have sunk her claws and teeth into her attacker and that is why it is simply unpardonable that DNA evidence was not collected from them.

It also is conceivable that he tortured her with pepper spray, pressurized hot water, or some other diabolical substance while she was still caged as amateur ornithologist Ernst Bernhard K. of München did with Andreas O's cat, Rocco, in December of 2010. (See Cat Defender posts of January 19, 2011, August 8, 2011, and August 17, 2011 entitled, respectively, "A Bird Lover in München Illegally Traps Rocco and Then Methodically Tortures Him to Death with Water and Pepper Spray over an Eleven-Day Period," "Ernst K.'s Trial for Kidnapping, Torturing, and Murdering Rocco Nears Its Climax in a München Courtroom," and "Ernst K. Walks Away Smelling Like a Rose as Both the Prosecutor and Judge Turn His Trial for Killing Rocco into a Lovefest for a Sadistic Cat Killer.")

Such diabolical treatment could have been meted out to her for hours on end until she finally lost consciousness. Once she had lapsed into that state it would have been an easy matter for her killer to have removed her from the cage and then used a knife, ax, or power tool in order to have dismembered her.

It thus would appear that her assailant employed multiple weapons in order to snuff out her life. That in turn calls into question the significance of the Polizei's recent discovery.

Looking at this matter from an entirely different angle, it also is conceivable that the story put out by the Polizei is a red herring designed to blunt criticism of its disgraceful failure to have solved this troubling case months ago. A far likelier scenario is that the killer once again returned to the Rebmanns' property and planted a weapon,  but not necessarily the one that he had used in the commission of this crime.

If there should be any credence to that line of reasoning, the next shoe to drop very well could be the depositing of Runa's head in or near the Rebmanns' garden at some future date. In that respect, it is regrettable that they have publicly disclosed that they have installed an alarm system and surveillance cameras.

If the weapon that recently came to light had been planted on their property, hidden and unpublicized cameras might very well have captured an image of the culprit. The same scenario would have held true if the killer had attempted to return Runa's head without knowing of the existence of the newly installed cameras.

As for why that he would choose to behave in such a fashion, there are at least two plausible explanations. First of all, he undoubtedly wants to inflict as much pain and sorrow as it is humanly possible upon the Rebmanns and, above all, to instill a sense of fear in them.

Secondly, he is a very emboldened individual who fervently believes that he is operating beyond the reach of the law and, given the shameful conduct of the Polizei, he is richly entitled to his feelings of invincibility. It accordingly would not be the least bit surprising if he were not laughing off his evil ass at this very moment at both the Polizei and the Rebmanns.

From the very beginning, the Polizei has lamely attempted to shirk its responsibility to fully and thoroughly investigate this matter by ludicrously floating the disingenuous theory that Runa could have been attacked by a wild animal and if this latest development has accomplished nothing else it finally has laid to rest such mindless and dishonest speculation. "Damit lagen wir richtig in der Annahme, dass der Kopf mutwillig abgetrennt wurde," Graser finally conceded to the Aargauer Zeitung. "Die Katze wurde also nicht von einem Wildtier oder durch einen Unfall getötet."

Even this latest development has not proven sufficient in order to get the Polizei to take this matter seriously. "Unsere Hoffnung ist nun, über die sichergestellte, mutmassliche Tatwaffe weiterzukommen," Graser pledged to the Aargauer Zeitung.

As any halfway knowledgeable individual knows only too well, hope does not solve criminal cases; on the contrary, doing so requires a commitment to do so and significant expenditures of both manpower and dollars. Since the Polizei is unwilling to do any of that, nothing has really changed as far as this investigation is concerned.

"Die Wahrscheinlichkeit ist aber klein, dass der Fall aufgeklärt wird," Graser acknowledged in his next breath to the Aargauer Zeitung. "Wenn dann bei solch aussergewöhnlichen Delikten kein Motiv erkennbar ist, sind Rückschlüsse auf die Täterschaft umso schwieriger."

On that last point he is completely wrong. For instance, the individual who killed and mutilated Runa and then dumped her torso in her owners' garden quite obviously not only hates cats with a passion but their caretakers as well.

Based upon an examination of prior crimes of this sort, the killer's modus operandi is easily recognizable as being that of a bird lover. Solving this case accordingly could have been as simple as identifying every ornithologist, both amateurs and professionals, who lives within easy walking distance of the Rebmanns' residence. (See Cat Defender post of December 8, 2017 entitled "The Abduction, Brutal Slaying, and Diabolical Mutilation of Runa Leaves Her Owner Devastated and Strikes Fear into the Hearts of All Cat Lovers Living in a Small Town in Switzerland.")

Graser additionally is guilty of ignoring the fact that a cat killer has been on the loose in Oberrohrdorf ever since 2014. For example, four cats belonging to twenty-eight-year-old Philomena Füglistaler mysteriously disappeared without so much as a trace between 2014 and late last year.

She also lived near the Rebmanns until last October when she wisely moved out of the neighborhood. (See Blick of Zurich, November 21, 2017, "'Wir haben keine ruhige Minute mehr!'")

That is simply too much of a coincidence to ignore. What appears to have happened is that once the killer had polished off her cats he immediately trained his sights on Runa.

He therefore can be expected to strike again and not only against any new cats that the Rebmanns may acquire but at those belonging to their neighbors as well. Just as it failed to protect Runa and Füglistaler's cats, the Kantonspolizei Aargau is on course to do likewise with all other feline residents of Oberrohrdorf.

In spite of all of that and the taunting that the Rebmanns have been subjected to, Graser stubbornly insists that cat owners do not have anything to worry about. "Bei allem Verständnis für die Verunsicherung sehen wir keinen objektiven Grund, sich Sorgen zu machen," he testified to the Aargauer Zeitung.

He accordingly does not see any reason for owners to restrict the outdoor rambles of their cats. "Wer eine Katze hat, weiss, dass es kaum möglich ist, deren Gewohnheiten zu beeinflussen," he philosophized to the Aargauer Zeitung.

It is almost superfluous to point out, but that is simply asinine advice. With such a diabolical killer on the loose it would be nothing short of insane for any owner to allow a cat out of doors without supervision.

Much more pertinently, since this monster is suspected of having killed five cats, the actual number of his victims easily could be much higher. That is because some owners do not even bother to either search for or to report to the authorities whenever their cats go missing. On top of that, the toll that he has inflicted upon homeless cats, which few people care about in the first place, very well could be off the charts.

As far as Rebmann is concerned, she has yet to come to terms with what has been done to Runa and her family. "Wir haben schon viele Sachen gelesen, doch so etwas haben wir noch nie gehört, geschweige denn erlebt," she admitted to the Aargauer Zeitung.

Even more shockingly, she is still unwilling to even so much as to entertain the notion that Runa's killer was one of her seemingly respectable bourgeois neighbors. "Wir wohnen seit vielen Jahren in Oberrohrdorf und pflegen ein gutes Verhältnis zur Nachbarschaft," she repeated for the umpteenth time to the Aargauer Zeitung.

Philomena Füglistaler with Photographs of Her Four Missing Cats

Not surprisingly, she does not have the stomach to see this matter through to the finish but, im Gegenteil, she wants to put it all behind her as quickly as possible and to get on with her life. "Wir müssen das Ereignis abhaken," she declared to the Aargauer Zeitung.

In doing so, she already has dismissed Runa's coldblooded and calculated murder as a random act committed by a crazy man. "Wir reden uns ein, dass Runa von einem kranken Menschen enthauptet wurde," she told the Aargauer Zeitung.

In all fairness to her, there can be no denying that the last few months have taken the will to fight right out of her. "Wir konnten gar nicht richtig um Runa trauern," she acknowledged to the Aargauer Zeitung. "Das Drumherum hat uns zu sehr beschäftigt."

Nevertheless, it would appear that she is attempting to do the impossible. On the one hand, there is not any conceivable way that she and her family ever can have any measure of closure unless Runa's killer is identified and brought to justice.

On the other hand, she is totally unwilling to embark upon a course of action that will culminate in achieving that worthy objective. In the meantime, she is placing both herself and her family in danger and that goes doubly for any new cats that she may bring into her home.

At the very least, she ought to consider the deleterious effect that leaving this matter unresolved is having on her children. "Sie (die Kinder) können weniger gut mit dem Geschehenen umgehen," she acknowledged to the Aargauer Zeitung. "Ihr Vertrauen in die Menschen ist nun ein Stück weit geschwunden."

Whereas it certainly is true that nothing will ever bring back Runa, apprehending and punishing her killer would at least allow her children to believe that there is some, but not much, justice to be found in this wicked old world. Doing so also could serve to teach them that it is not always possible to turn the other cheek.

"Remember that now you can have confidence in yourself always," Hercule Poirot counseled Norma Restarik in Dame Agatha's 1966 novel, The Third Girl. "To have known, at close quarters, what absolute evil means is to be armored against what life can do to you."

Even if Rebmann should have a change of heart and decide to see this matter through, the road ahead is going to be quite difficult owing to the fact that the trail has gone cold and most of the evidence vanished long ago. Moreover, she cannot expect any worthwhile assistance from either the Kantonspolizei Aargau or local politicians.

The situation is not completely hopeless, however, in that at least three possibly fruitful avenues of inquiry remain open to her. The most promising of which would be for her to hire a private dick and since she is employed as a mechanical engineer she undoubtedly makes good money and therefore should be able to easily afford such a worthwhile expenditure.

The first order of business for any shamus that she might retain would be to locate and interview Füglistaler and, since Blick did not have any trouble in locating her, neither should he. Specifically, he should find out from her exactly where she used to reside and the facts and circumstances surrounding the disappearance of her four cats. She also undoubtedly has her own suspicions and insights which she surely would be more than willing to share with him.

From the information supplied by her, the gumshoe should be able to map out a search area. Following that, he should endeavor to identify and thoroughly investigate all individuals living within that area.

If possible, all cat owners should be identified and interviewed because they, if anyone, would be likely to know the identities of all cat-haters in the area. Above all, gardens should be peered into for the presence of bird houses and feeders.

If nothing worthwhile is learned from those exercises, the search area would need to be expanded. With only four-thousand residents, Oberrohrdorf is a small city and that makes if feasible, if necessary, to place the entire town under scrutiny.

Secondly, if Rebmann should perhaps still be in possession of some of Runa's bedding or, considerably less likely, the Polizei still has her remains on ice, it might be worthwhile to put a bloodhound on her scent and to walk it around the neighborhood. Given the amount of time that has ticked off the clock, that would be a real long shot unless a suspect could be identified ahead of time and he is still in possession of Runa's head or has failed to thoroughly remove all of her blood from his premises.

The notion itself is not quite as far-fetched as it may sound, however, in that a Cocker Spaniel named Molly is currently employed locating missing cats for Pet Detectives in Guildford, Surrey. (See the Mid Sussex Times of Horsham in West Sussex, April 7, 2017, "Lost Pet Is Tracked Down by United Kingdom's First Cat Detection Dog.")

Thirdly, Rebmann might want to consider retaining the services of a cat expert and to have that individual deploy an undercover cat in the neighborhood. The cat would need to be equipped with some type of miniature tracking device that could be hidden either underneath its collar or in its name tag and its handlers could not afford under any circumstances to allow it out of their sight.

That would be a time-consuming, painstaking, and very expensive undertaking. Nevertheless, it is possible that after a while the cat might lead investigators to the residence of Runa's killer.

Although she was killed during the overnight hours, it is suspected that it was Runa's daytime activities that led to her demise. This exercise accordingly would need to be tried only during the daytime.

The first objective of this undertaking would be to identify a likely suspect and that could be accomplished by monitoring homeowners for violent verbal and physical reactions to the cat whenever it ventured onto their properties. Secondly, the next step would be to place that individual under twenty-four-hour surveillance. Thirdly, it would be necessary to either trick this individual into exposing himself or to skillfully trap him in some type of sting operation.

Ruses of this kind have been successfully conducted in the past. For example, in early 2006 Brooklyn district attorney Charles Hynes employed a cat named Fred in order to trap and arrest Stephen Vassall who at that time was practicing veterinary medicine without a license. (See Cat Defender posts of February 14, 2006 and August 17, 2006 entitled, respectively, "Special Agent Fred the Cat Goes Undercover in Order to Help Nab a Quack Vet in a Brooklyn Sting Operation" and "Brave Little Fred the Undercover Cat Has His Short, Tragic Life Snuffed Out by a Hit-and-Run Driver in Queens.")

If such a ploy should be tried in Oberrohrdorf, it is paramount that the safety of the undercover cat take precedence over making an arrest. The very last thing that is needed in this case is another dead cat! In fact, a robotic one might suffice just as well as a real-life one.

Besides being revolting, what was done to Runa was heartbreaking. It also is utterly shameful that the Rebmanns have been left hung out to dry by the authorities.

As horrible as all of that is, it is not all that materially different from how shabbily cats and their owners are treated everywhere by both despisers of the species and the authorities. The message thus is clear: owners and those who care about cats must help themselves.

Was noch schlimmer ist, crimes against cats are increasing exponentially and in severity all over the world. A large part of that increase is attributable to the frustrations of ornithologists and wildlife biologist over their inability to convince a skeptical public to support their clarion call to kill all cats.

As they have become more and more frustrated in their evil designs, their crimes against cats not only have become more graphic but they simultaneously have embarked upon a campaign of fear and intimidation directed at their owners and supporters. It accordingly is not going to very long before they commence actually attacking their persons and property.

Hiding one's head in the sand, turning the other cheek, and making outrageous compromises, such as selling down the river homeless cats, is not the solution. Supporters of the species desperately need to make a stand and that includes at the very least insisting upon their right to equality under the law and that the anti-cruelty statutes be religiously enforced.

Photos: Carla Stumpfli of the Aargauer Zeitung (Runa with Rebmann and Rebmann in her garden) and Ralph Dongli of Blick (Füglistaler).