French police on Friday issued an identikit picture of a suspect wanted over a wave of gruesome horse killings as they stepped up the investigation into what they believe may be satanic rituals.
In the latest of at least 19 killings and savage mutilations this year, a mare was found eviscerated and a pony with its ear cut off in the southern area of Puyvert this week.
The investigation had made little headway until a breakthrough came this week, when the owner of an animal refuge drove off two men who slashed a horse and two ponies in Burgundy.
A facial image of one of them, based on a description by the refuge owner, Nicolas Demajean, has been broadcast on national television.
Mr Demajean said the attackers “spoke words in a language I couldn’t understand. I think it must be from eastern Europe.”
Julien Denormandie, the agriculture minister, on Friday visited a riding school in central France targeted in one of the attacks. “Justice will be done,” he promised.
Franck Jolly, a police captain, said: “The hunt for the culprits is now a priority.”
A small wooden sculpture believed to be a “voodoo doll” was found at the site of one of the attacks. Investigators are pursuing the theory that the killers are carrying out satanic rituals, systematically slicing off horses’ ears and genitals, and gouging their eyes.
Police believe groups are involved because of the difficulty of restraining a terrified horse.
A Paris police spokeswoman said similar attacks were reported in Belgium and Germany between 2014 and 2016.
Britain recorded 160 alleged cases of “horse-ripping” between 1983 and 1993.