For about a month, the community of North Swindon, England was plagued by a mysterious vandal. Numerous residents filed reports with the local police after discovering the brake cables in their cars had been severed by the unknown assailant. To combat the growing problem, officials stepped-up patrols and warned the community to be on alert. But after an extensive investigation, the culprits were finally nabbed -- and they turned out to be far bushier than anyone could have imagined.Despite all the time and energy devoted to cracking the cases of vandalism, lead investigator Pete Chamberland soon discovered that he'd been barking up the wrong tree -- though that method might have proved more successful. Instead of a roving gang of human hooligans, the vandals were in fact a band of bushy-tailed squirrels with a taste for car parts.
An off duty police-officer solved the mystery after noticing tiny teeth marks on his car's recently severed brake cable.
Chamberland was understandably a bit surprised to find who was actually behind the incidents he had spent weeks investigation, and his colleagues at the station don't plan on letting him forget about it anytime soon.
"I have never heard of anything like this in 20 years of police service," he told the Swindon Advertiser, which offered some relief to the puzzled officer.
I was quite pleased to find out that it is not some sinister human being. I needed to be sure before I announced it to members of the public because I didn't want to end up with egg on my face, but the jokes are all starting to come my way now. I've had people hopping around me saying "nuts to you." It has certainly brought some joviality to morning meetings, that's for sure.
Armed with the tip, Chamberland, like any good investigator, sought to build a solid-case that squirrels were indeed to blame. Turning to the internet, he found information confirming that the rodents are known to nibble on cables, drawn to the soya-based rubber that surrounds it.
While the culprit has been identified, it's done little to quell the frustration felt by residents whose cars have been damaged. "Everyone's been a bit worried," says Irzana Golding, who had her brake cable cut twice, though she's pleased that humans weren't involved. She even set up a video-surveillance system to catch the animals committing the crime, but has yet to see them.
To prevent a community backlash against squirrels, Chamberland has issued a statement telling folks to not take the law into their own hands.
"Nobody has seen them in action, but there are a lot of squirrels in that area and the message to the public is don't go trying to catch them yourself because you could be committing an offense," says the investigator.
"And they could bite," he added.