expedition report 2002


Richard Freeman

One day in early June, Jon was idly flipping through the news pages on Teletext when he came across a truly weird tale. A wallaby had been found decapitated and exsanguinated in a what that sounded suspiciously like cattle mutilations. Jon recalled that the attack seem very like a series of wallaby attacks that took place at Newquay zoo in the mid 70s. This new outbreak had taken place in Loftus on the borders of north Yorkshire and Cleveland.

We rang Loftus police station and spoke to PC Eddy O`Hara who had been working on the case. PC O`Hara confirmed the story and told us that a local vet was going to perform a post mortem on the animal and had it in deep freeze. We suggested that the CFZ should come up to Loftus examine the cadaver and help in the case. PC O`Hara seem glad of the help and was happy to pass on the details of the animal sanctuary were the attack had taken place.

We rang Cliff Spedding, the owner of the Hope animal sanctuary. Cliff was also glad of our help and told us what had happened. He had found two dead wallabies over several days. The first had no marks on the body and was unfortunately buried. Cliff found the second, a female albino wallaby a few days latter. This animal was missing it`s head and right fore leg. It was lying in the paddock and strangely there was no blood anywhere. None of the other animals had made any noise and Cliff and his family heard nothing on the night of the attack. Cliff seemed convinced that the woods that backed onto the sanctuary were frequented by devil worshippers. He told us that a freind of his from a neighbouring village had told him some satanists were arrested in the woods and he was convinced the wallaby was the victim of ritual sacrifice.

We had planned to travel up to Loftus and investigate but fate had an ace up its sleeve. We were contacted by company called Making Time who were making a tv show for UK Living called Scream Team. The idea was to take six good looking young people and ferry them round the country in a bus investigating spooky things. The group had spent nights in haunted houses and had camped out in woods rumoured to be the haunt of devil worshippers (not the ones at Loftus). Making Time wanted the Scream Team to be in on the case and help with the investigation.

The Spa Hotel at Saltburn by the Sea

So we found ourselves in the in the Spa Hotel, in the delightful seaside town of Saltburn by the Sea. The team were a great bunch and I enjoyed a nice night out with them as we drank in the Queen Victoria and regaled each other with tales of our exploits. The interviewers has certainly picked well, Amy and Sheyla were both exceptionally beautiful.

Next day we left for Loftus and the Hope sanctuary. The sanctuary spread for around an acre and consisted of home made enclosures constructed from sheds, ponds, paddocks and even an old caravan. The enclosures were well maintained and reasonably spacious. Inmates included stray dogs and cats, seagulls, a cormorant, polecats, wallabies, seep and goats, rabbits and a llama.

Cliff Spedding with Richard

Cliff himself, a burly middle aged man, was very genuine. He care for his charges and was visibly very upset at what had happened. Ran by a handful of volunteers the sanctuary was supported by donations and money raised from car boot sales.

After interviewing Cliff and his staff we examined the paddock and concluded it could have been easily breached. A sweep with a Geiger counter revealed no abnormal radiation levels that are associated with cattle mutilation and had been found at Newquay in the 70s.

We then took the defrosted wallaby carcass to the Beck Veterinary Practice in Whitby. Here the highly helpful vet, Simon Beck had agreed to let us use his surgery. The first vet to whom the carcass had been entrusted had not got around to doing the post mortem so Simon and myself got to work on it. All six of the Scream Team (including a very squeamish and vegetarian Amy), squeezed into the small surgery together with the camera crew, sound, director, and producer.

The field where the wallabies were killed

The wound on the neck and forelimb was indicative of a blow from a heavy, sharp object such as a hatchet of machete. The trachea was neatly severed at one of the rings suggesting the head was yanked off after the initial blow. The blood vessels contained a lot of blood suggesting the animal was alive at the time the wounds were inflicted and had not been mutilated at a later time. This also contradicted the early stories that the body was drained of blood.

The pelt was removed to facilitate examination of the skin .A bruise was found at the base of the spine indicating that a blow was dealt there perhaps to incapacitate the animal.

The Hope Animal Sanctuary

The organs were all present. Lungs and heart were full of blood indicating a struggle at the time of death. The intestine contained no trace of drugs or indeed anything untoward. There was no evidence of sexual motive.

Simon Beck proved to be a first rate pathologist. It was a pleasure to work with him and all present learned a lot of practical skills from his dissection techniques

The entire autopsy report can be seen here and pictures from the autopsy can be viewed here

NB: The autopsy photographs are not suitable for children and may be upsetting

The conclusion that we reached was that a gang of several men had killed the animal by cornering it, striking it at the base of the spine and then holding it down whilst the fatal blow was dealt. It is likely that the body was held up by the tail and the blood caught in a bag. The head and forepaw were never found. There was no evidence of occult or ritualistic activity and the men who did this were not drunk or on drugs. The killing carried out with co-ordination. It seemed that the killing was a deliberate act of malice with someone who had a grudge against Cliff Spedding.

The following day we reported to PC O`Hara and told him of our findings and showed him the photographs of the post mortem. He agreed with our theories of the gang with a grudge. He and WPC Rachel Dick told us that they thought it was an out of town group who were responsible as the local thugs would have soon been exposed by gossip in the small community. Despite some side-splitting stories of inbreeding and bestiality in nearby Skinningrove they had never come across devil worship.

Next day we took a look at the woods in Loftus. Unless empty beer cans and not so empty rubber johnnies are artefacts of the great beast then there was no evidence of unclean rites wherein naked acolytes prance `neath the gibbous moon whilst daubing themselves in wallaby blood.

We spent the next couple of days relaxing with our old friends Dave and Joanne Curtis in Seaham, before driving up to South Shields to see Mike Hallowell. The Scream Team were on their way to the next adventure in ghost haunted Edinburgh.

If the intervention of the CFZ on the side of the forces of law and order has helped the police in their attempts at catching the killers then we will have done a good day's work. Although it seems that in this instance the motivation of the killers was malicious, studies in the United States have proven that a significant number of serial killers and serial sex abusers started off their careers ill treating and killing animals. We, therefore believe that our expertise in profiling perpetrators of animal mutilations is of very real social importance.

The perimeter fence is slightly damaged.
Could this be where the intruders climbed in?

Jon`s book Who Killed Skippy? will be published by cfz publications later in the year.