A BELOVED family cat was found hung up on the branch of a tree “like a trophy” after being shot through the neck with a rifle.

The sickening incident has left the cat’s owner Heather McCallum and her family heartbroken and questioning whether someone killed their pet on purpose.

Heather, 56, was telephoned by Brunswick Place Vets in Basingstoke on December 30 to inform her that her cat, Leo, had been brought in by a member of the public, and had died “under suspicious circumstances”.

The mother-of-two from Oakley went to see two-and-a-half-year-old Leo, but said his body had already started to decompose, with the vets suspecting he had died around five days previously, on Christmas Eve.

Struggling to control her emotions, devastated Heather told the Gazette: “The vet suspects a high-powered rifle was used that went through his neck and out the other side. They think the bullet went right through his neck and broke his shoulder and collapsed his chest. He was probably killed instantly.”

The NHS worker, who is PA to the chief nursing officer at Basingstoke hospital, added: “I couldn’t have coped seeing him where he was found. He was hung up facing the road, hung like a trophy. He was flung like a scarf over the branch with his head near his tail so almost doing a U shape.”

Leo was discovered by a family walking in the area opposite Chic Teak near North Waltham and the A30.

Lucy Jones, who was with her husband and six-year-old son, made the grim discovery while taking her dog for a walk.

Basingstoke Gazette:

The 34-year-old said: “I saw something in the tree and this very beautiful cat was dangled over a branch and clearly no longer alive. I was with my son so trying to hide it from him. We have cats as well. I got past without my son seeing and realised that it looked a bit unusual because of the position it was in.”

Lucy posted something on Facebook when she got home, and a woman who thought the cat might be hers went and took Leo down and brought him to the vets.

“It’s very sad if someone has done something that evil,” said Lucy, adding: “Particularly as we live nearby. I can’t stop thinking about it. It’s not normal. I just hope whoever did it realises that people know that this happened and that they now feel terribly guilty.”

Heather contacted the police about the incident but was left frustrated by their response.

“They said it’s a closed case because they can’t ever take anyone to court because it’s in the middle of nowhere and they have so much else to do,” she explained, adding: “It’s right next to the A30 and someone with a rifle could have hit a human. The police haven’t even gone to have a look. We think it’s deliberate, the shot was through the cat’s neck so quite precise. There were lots of empty alcohol bottles and rubbish dumped there so they could have been having a party and were drunk.”

The police gave Heather a crime reference number, describing the incident as ‘criminal damage of property’, which she described as “cold” when referring to a family pet.

Basingstoke Gazette:

Leo had been missing since November 27, but Heather said it was not unusual for him to go off for long periods of time, and the family had been hoping he would come home before Christmas.

The mum took her 16-year-old daughter to say goodbye to Leo at the vets and said: “He had such beautiful features. We saw him laid out and said goodbye and made sure it was him. He has such a plethora of beautiful colours. It’s such a waste of life.”

She is now questioning why someone would want to do this to a cat, adding: “I don’t want anyone to be hurt, but why? To shoot a cat and lay him out there for so long and like a trophy. I’m so angry but I’m more aching and upset than anything.”

A spokesperson for Hampshire Constabulary said: "We can confirm we received a report that a cat had sadly been found dead in Trenchard Lane, Oakley, with injuries that would appear to be bullet wounds. Unfortunately, as the incident was reported to have occurred in an isolated location with no prospect of CCTV or description of any suspect, there were no current lines of enquiry for investigation at the time of the report.

"We appreciate this was a very distressing incident for the owner and concerning that someone may have deliberately caused the animal's injuries. The Neighbourhood Policing Team have been made aware of the incident and will be making contact with the cat's owner. We would urge anyone who may have seen anything suspicious in the area prior to 5pm on December 30 or who may have any information about this incident or a similar occurrence in the local area, to please get in touch. You can do this by calling 101 and quoting reference 44200500257 or by reporting online at www.hampshire.police.uk."