An animal killer who mutilates pet cats before dumping the bodies on their owners' doorsteps may have struck again.

The corpse of a female tabby cat was found on the front lawn of a house.

Its head had been removed with a single cut and the blood had been drained out of its body.

Another five cats have been reported missing within a few hundred feet of Cotswold Road, Durrington, Worthing, in the last week.

The incidents bear all the hallmarks of what has become a grisly pattern of deaths.

Last year dozens of owners were left heartbroken when their animals were mutilated and dumped.

During 2004 at least 30 cats were attacked in Littlehampton, Rustington, Bognor Regis, Chichester, Haywards Heath and Burgess Hill.

Most were decapitated or had other body parts removed before they were dumped.

Animal rescue workers are trying to find the owner of the latest victim.

Rosalind Hill found the cat at 8.45am on Monday. She said it had been left at the edge of her lawn where it could be seen by anybody walking to school or work.

She said: "It was terrible. I just feel sad that somebody has lost a loving pet."

Mrs Hill called her daughter-in-law Tracey, an inspector with the Worthing and District Cat's Protection League.

She said: "There's no way it could have been run over. The head had been cut clean off, so it couldn't have been another animal.

Rustington pet homing detective June Bailey has been investigating cat killings and said: "I don't think it was a ritual killing. Apparently it has been going on in Essex as well but it hasn't happened here for about a year."