A mystery woman caught on surveillance camera affectionately stroking a cat before dumping the pet into a garbage bin has been identified and will be interviewed by authorities, after thousands of people watched the clip on the Internet.
The astonished owners of Lola posted the security camera clip online after a pedestrian in central England casually tossed their pet in the trash — seemingly without any provocation from the tabby, which is less than a year old.
The video has outraged animal lovers, who have posted angry messages online pledging retribution against the woman in the video, whose name has not been released, and police have posted guards outside her house.
Investigators at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which prosecutes cruelty cases, said Tuesday the cat was trapped for 15 hours before being rescued on Sunday morning by her owners, who told a British newspaper they heard the distressed cat's muffled cries from inside the bin. The cat was unharmed.
The society said it planned to interview the woman involved after it confirmed her identity, but declined to say whether she had been identified by an online viewer of the clip.
Police in Coventry urged local residents to show restraint.
"Coventry Police are supporting the society's investigation and would urge the public to leave the matter to be dealt with in the appropriate manner by the authorities," the West Midlands police department said in a statement.
Lola's owner Stephanie Mann said she and husband Darryl couldn't find Lola on Sunday morning but followed the sound of her meows.
"We thought she might be trapped under the car because she sounded like she was hurt, so we followed her cries and eventually found her in the bin," she told the Coventry Telegraph newspaper.
"I don't know what went through her head but it was just disgusting to watch and it broke my eight-year-old daughter's heart," she was quoted as saying.
Mr. Mann described his shock to British TV station Sky News: "I know some people don't like cats but you wouldn't expect them to do that to an animal that can't defend itself."
The couple had previously installed a personal surveillance camera outside their home in Coventry, central England, following a spate of thefts in the area.
Mann said they checked the video tape expecting to discover local youths, or a drunk, had thrown Lola into the bin late on Saturday evening, but were shocked to discover the culprit was a respectable looking woman.
"I was absolutely heartbroken to see how someone could just be so cruel," she told the newspaper.
Mann later posted the clip online, where it has attracted tens of thousands of views.
Coventry police department said a small number of community support officers — wardens who assist the police but have no powers of arrest — had been stationed near the woman's home after a crowd gathered outside.