French police on Monday made their first arrest in a string of shocking attacks on horses that are believed to be the work of several people, prosecutors said.
A man was detained after a computer-generated image of one of two people suspected of cutting horses in the Yonne department of central France was circulated, regional prosecutor Arnaud Laraize told AFP.
French authorities have been at a loss to explain the attacks, which according to the gendarmerie have seen the ears cut off some 20 horses nationwide, as well as genital mutilations and other cuts.
Security forces believe several people are involved with speculation suggesting they could be motivated by a satanic rite or an internet cult.
Authorities constructed the suspect’s likeness in part based on testimony from stable manager Nicolas Demajean, whose premises were attacked in August.
Demajean was injured when he went to confront two attackers who had cut two ponies with knives and mutilated another horse, he said.
The suspect, 50, was arrested in the Haut-Rhin department of eastern France said Laraize, adding he was known in neighbouring Germany for attacks on animals although in France was registered for drug-related crimes.
Searches of his home did not find conclusive evidence but there was considerable digital material still to examine, he added, while emphasising it was not clear if there was any link to the other attacks.
“In this case, we absolutely do not exclude the idea that there is no link with other incidents nationwide,” the prosecutor said.
French police at the weekend launched a search for two suspects in the Cote-d’Or region of eastern France after a stable owner told police of an intrusion on his premises during which one horse was wounded.
A 40-strong team of gendarmes backed up by police dogs and a helicopter were sent to the scene but have not found the culprits so far.
The Val-d’Oise department close to Paris recorded its first cases on Saturday: Two mares, who did not die, were wounded, one with a cut in the vulva and the other a cut of 30 centimetres on the side.
The French gendarmerie has said a total of 150 possible incidents were being looked at, but added that they might not all be linked to the same phenomenon.