Who – or what – killed Simon the rabbit? Late last month, Simon, a 3-foot giant rabbit straight out of central casting for critters with adorable personalities, was found dead after a trans-Atlantic flight from London to Chicago. To add insult to intrigue, Simon had traveled on United – the same airline pilloried earlier in the month for having a paying customer dragged off a plane after refusing to give up his seat to a United employee.

Simon, one of the world’s biggest rabbits, had been purchased from a rabbit breeder in Britain and put on the flight to Chicago to rendezvous with its new American owner. Normally, a flight across the Atlantic for a pet would not be a big deal if handled correctly. Whatever initial trauma the animal experiences in an unfamiliar space like a cargo hold eventually gives way to nonthreatening routine. Every year, thousands of pets fly in airline cargo holds without incident.

Guy Cook, an attorney representing the American owner of the rabbit, revealed that Simon’s last hours were anything but routine. According to the lawyer, Simon may have been locked in a freezer during the flight and kept in a freezer for up to 16 hours after the flight.

Cook’s clients are demanding an independent investigation into the rabbit’s death. Unfortunately, United cremated Simon before he could undergo an autopsy. Simon’s owners allege that a cover-up began at that moment because crucial evidence was destroyed.

There is much about this case, especially the quick disposal of Simon the rabbit’s carcass, that is irregular. United probably assumes it will have to write a big check to ameliorate the outrage of the family and is probably prepared to do so.

Still, it is in the public’s interest to understand what went wrong on Simon’s flight across the Atlantic. If he was put in a freezer by accident, that is an unconscionable mistake that United must own up to.