This is seriously weird. In fact it’s surreal. If someone wrote this as a piece of fiction, a publisher would probably tell them that it simply wasn’t a credible story. Readers wouldn’t suspend disbelief, they’d say. They’d just snigger knowingly right the way through. Go away and write something slightly more plausible.
Anyway, after a brief mention of it last night, today I’ve been following the hunt for the Coventry cat binner, as it has unfolded on the internet. Dick Puddlecote picked up on it, and later in the day the newspapers followed, and then the TV channels.
The story, for those who don’t know, is that at about 7:30pm on Saturday 21 Aug 2010, on a road in Coventry, England, a fat middle-aged women stopped and stroked a cat, and then picked it up and dropped it into a wheelie-bin, closed the lid, and walked away. The cat spent all night in the bin, until at about 11:30am on Sunday, its owner went looking for it, heard its faint meowing from inside the bin, and retrieved it unhurt. Weird, huh? What was even stranger in this case was that the events of the previous evening had been recorded on CCTV cameras mounted on the cat’s owners’ house. When the cat’s owners looked through the recording, and found the episode just described, they put a video of it on Facebook and YouTube sometime around 8pm on Sunday evening, asking who the woman was. From there the YouTube clip began to slowly propagate through Facebook, which is where I found it a bit after midnight, and added a postscript about it to my last essay.
Today, the story has gone viral. At about 11:30am the Coventry Telegraph published the story and the video. In the afternoon first the Sun and then the Daily Mail also published the story. And in the evening all the UK TV channels ran the story – BBC, ITV, C4 – and Sky News too. By early evening the story was getting reported in Australia, and Holland, and Croatia. The Facebook group started on Sunday evening gained 1,500+ members by late Monday evening. The police had been informed, and the RSPCA too.
There’s really no chance whatsoever that this woman will get away. The video footage is very good, and most likely a number of people know who she is. And she may well have seen herself on the news. The manhunt isn’t going to last very long.
But here’s where it gets even weirder. There is no manhunt. Sometime during the day, the police issued a statement:
Erm…, the RSPCA (the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) doesn’t have any detectives. So it seems that the RSPCA are just going to wait until somebody phones them up and tells them who did it, and then they’ll swing into action.
Meanwhile, the mood of the Facebook group is getting a bit ugly. Because while the police and the RSPCA are waiting for someone to solve the crime for them, the onlooking public are expecting the police to arrest someone. The story has, after all, gone global. Sample comments:
“she should come clean and put her hands up, and APOLOGISE to the owners, then we can skin her.”
“i hope the evil cow tops herself ”
“i want to put a vigilante mask on and beat the crap out of her and dump HER in a Bin”
“If you see her go and punch her in the face!”
“God help them if the Stoke lynch mob get to them first”
So where are we? The police aren’t looking for her, and neither is the RSPCA, but there are any number of very angry people wandering around Coventry looking for a fat woman. And if the Facebook comments (and the cartoon below, found on it) are any guide, she can expect to be found with her legs sticking out of a wheelie bin sometime soon.
I wrote last night that an army could be assembled on the internet, and that’s exactly what’s happening here. An army of vigilantes has begun roaming the streets of Coventry. And when they find out that the police aren’t looking for the fat woman, they’ll go looking for her themselves with renewed determination. And if the police don’t get to her first, the lynch mob certainly will. Every single fat woman in Coventry is in mortal danger.
The story is still unfolding, but it looks set to become even more surreal over the next few days, as international attention focuses on the hunt for the Coventry Cat Binner – a hunt that isn’t happening. People all around the world will be following this avidly. Reporters with satellite dishes will be camped outside Coventry police station. And periodically, a police constable will come out and say, “Well, we’re still waiting for someone to phone us up and tell us who did this. Just like we’re waiting for someone to phone us up and tell us who robbed the bank on the high street in July.” Meanwhile, all over Coventry, fat ladies will be found up-ended in wheelie bins.
Okay, I’ll stop now. I know it’s not really credible. I’ll try and work on a better and more plausible story tomorrow.
Update 1: 5 pm Tues 24 Aug. The woman has been identified, but not arrested, and the police are ‘keeping an eye on her’. The Facebook group has now been closed (just when the French had started arriving). I doubt it’s the end of the story, somehow.
Update 2: Wed 25 Aug. The Sun interviews Mary Bale:
MOGGIE mauler Mary Bale yesterday admitted dumping a family’s pet puss in a wheelie bin – but insisted: “I don’t know what the fuss is about, it’s just a cat.”