An investigation has been launched after a dead cat caught in a lethal trap was found wedged in the wheel of a car.

Mystery surrounds exactly how the animal came to be stuck behind the wishbone of the car's suspension unit, but the RSPCA has launched an appeal to find the heartless humans who set the trap.

The charity was contacted following the discovery of the adult tabby and white tom cat in Glebe Crescent, Witham.

The owner of the vehicle described hearing loud "clonking noises" coming from the front wheel of her car when trying to drive the vehicle one morning.

Anna Glozier, an RSPCA collection officer who attended the incident, said: "When the AA arrived they reached around and discovered a trap attached to the wheel inside the hub, so they cut the chain which was tangled up.

"However then they looked up and saw that there was a cat whose leg was caught in the trap.

“The cat was dead, but we don’t know if it was killed by the trap, or whether it was dead before it ended up in the car."

The vehicle had not moved in several days and the animal had no microchip so may have been living feral around Witham.

Llewelyn Lowen, scientific information officer for the RSPCA, said a mechanical gin trap had been set by the attacker, the use of which has been outlawed since 1958.

“Gin traps are indiscriminate. The victims can just as easily be a family pet as a wild animal, but whichever the animal, these traps cause a great deal of suffering and we are extremely concerned about their use," he said.

"The RSPCA is opposed to the manufacture, sale and use of all snares and any traps which cause suffering. Animals trapped like this will struggle when caught and may succeed in pulling the trap from its anchor only to die later from their injuries.

“If you spot an animal in distress, please call the RSPCA's 24-hour helpline on 0300 1234 999 however, never try to free an animal from a snare or trap. Stay back to avoid stressing the animal and call us with the location.”

Anyone with information should contact 0300 123 8018.