Vetted no more - the secret life of Downing Street's serial killer

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Indy Politics

He was a ruthless killer with no interest in the opposite sex who operated out of a lair deep in the heart of Government.

He was a ruthless killer with no interest in the opposite sex who operated out of a lair deep in the heart of Government.

The secret life of Humphrey, the Downing Street cat, has been revealed under freedom of information legislation.

To the outside world he was a fluffy, black and white moggy who lived in and around No 10 for almost 10 years after being taken in as a stray. However, a darker picture emerges from the contents of a 120-page file released by the Cabinet Office late on Friday.

Humphrey's prowess as a killing machine, for example, is contained in a draft briefing note prepared by the civil servant who looked after him.

"He has caught numerous mice and the odd rat," writes the official. "By a perhaps unfair comparison, Rentokil have been operating for years and have never caught anything."

The passage was excised by a more senior mandarin. The same civil servant proved he had a sense of humour by suggesting his own answer to the question of whether the cat had ever had any kittens. "No," the official wrote in the note's margins. "He has been positively vetted."

Humphrey became a minor celebrity during his Downing Street years, the subject of dozens of newspaper diary stories as well as "... and finally" broadcast news items.

The file contains dozens of examples of fan mail, ranging from the whimsical to the frankly bizarre such as a three-page epic poem in Esperanto written in his honour. Humphrey became the subject of intense controversy, however, after it was reported that Cherie Blair disliked cats and would be seeking to evict him shortly after Labour's election victory in May 1997.

Alastair Campbell, then Mr Blair's press secretary, arranged to have a smiling Mrs Blair cuddle the cat for photographers to counter the claims. But his retirement that December fuelled fresh speculation, especially after Humphrey failed to appear for a valedictory photo-call.

Conspiracy theorists will be disappointed to learn the truth that the cat, by then 11, really was too old and infirm to take a last bow.

His final fate is not recorded but the file ends on an encouraging note. "Since retiring to a home environment he has responded very well and put on weight."

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