The little town of Hveragerði is one of many quaint little roadside towns in Iceland. It is the first town you hit when you leave Reykjavík for the wonders of the south coast. It doesn’t seem like there is anything out of the ordinary–gas stations guard the entrance into town, a wonderful local swimming pool overlooks the town from the mountainside and the locals are as Icelandic as they come.
In fact, it’s quite idyllic, to get there you swing down a winding road that cuts down the countryside, navigating sharp turns as you enjoy the stunning view of the southern flatlands. Steam rises from the ground and all around is some of the best farmland in the country and cattle and horses graze peacefully everywhere you look.
Yet, below the facade of the peaceful community lurks a horrifying reality–for years the town’s cats have been murdered, and just a few days ago, another cat was found chopped limb from limb.
“This has been happening yearly each summer. For two summers in a row, 2015-2016, cats would come home crying after having eaten fish filets laced with antifreeze,” local resident Bergljót Davíðsdóttir told RÚV. The cats died and a later autopsy established the cause of death as poison.
“I sensed that people were afraid to discuss the killings and I found it terrible,” she said.
The Verslunarmannahelgi massacre
In 2015, as Icelanders were travelling around the country celebrating the annual Monday bank holiday that follows the first weekend of August, residents of Hveragerði woke to a horrifying discovery–at least four cats had been murdered.
“I left for work on Friday and I noticed that my cat looked a bit weird. When I returned home at the end of the day I could see that he was in fact violently ill,” Hveragerði resident Aðalsteinn Magnússon told Vísir at the time. “I took him to the vet and he was diagnosed with pneumonia, and then I heard that a blue fish filet had been found across the street from my house and that more cats were ill.”
An unknown individual had strewn fish filets laced with antifreeze across town and in addition to the four cats that died, another was ill as was a dog and dead birds littered the streets. Aðalsteinn’s cat Pútín died, but thankfully his year old brother Pétur lived.
“I don’t know what to say. I am so angry and hurt at the same time,” said Aðalsteinn. “Nobody knows who the culprit is or why he did it. Either there is a seriously sick individual who is having fun killing animals, or he has placed the fish on rooftops to kill seagulls and the wind has blown them down. Either way, this is not smart.”
The police came to Aðalsteinn’s house to investigate, but having exhausted all leads and with no suspects in sight, the case was dropped.
A year to the day later
The following Verslunarmannahelgi, the residents of Hveragerði sought to enjoy their vacation with their families, but once again the peace was broken by the discovery of murdered cats–this time there were two. The Hveragerði Cat Killer had laid low for 12 months, but now, probably knowing that the police had dropped the case, he was back.
The head of police in the south of Iceland, Oddur Árnason, told RÚV that they did not believe there was talk of an accident.
“Antifreeze should not be in fish filets at the same time of year, year after year. It is so unlikely that this is an accident, that for me it just doesn’t add up,” Oddur said. The police asked the public for information and leads, but again nothing came up.
A copycat or new killing fields?
Six months after the 2016 Hveragerði killings, five cats were found poisoned by antifreeze in the Reykjavík suburb Hafnarfjörður. Immediately the police started an investigation into the matter and Villikettir, a volunteering organisation that fights for the wellbeing of cats, promised a 102,300 ISK reward for anyone who could provide information that would lead to arrests being made. Despite many members of the public answering the call, once again, the investigation hit a dead end.
It is still unknown if the Hveragerði killings and the once in Hafnafjörður are related.
The abandoned farm abductions
Bergljót’s cat has been missing for sometime and after sending out a missing cat report on social media she caught a lead. A local boy informed here that several dead cats were by an abandoned farm close by.
“I felt an urge to go there, I didn’t really believe it at first, and I wanted to see if my cat was among the dead,” Bergljót told RÚV. “I arrived and found one cat that had been sliced in two.” Here cat was not among the dead.
House cats have been found all over southern Iceland. In many cases rivers prevent them from returning home, so they are left to fend for themselves.
“A woman called me from Öndverðunes and told me that there were many cats there nobody recognised. Cats from Hveragerði have been found there,” Bergljót said.
Police at a loss, paranoia sets in
These latest murders along with the escalating brutality and mutilations is sure to increase police efforts for finding the Hveragerði Cat Killer, but as Bergljót explains, such cases are usually not high priority for the police.
“It is not as if people have been killed and, therefore, the police launch a full scale investigation,” she told RÚV. “But panic sets in when people lose their animals this way and people are afraid their cat is next. Usually the discussion dies down after a while, but we need to keep talking about it. This is a plague on society that damages the mood in town and the reputation of Hveragerði, it’s not fair.”