Security guard goes on trial accused of being Brighton cat killer
The trial into the Brighton cat killings has started, with security guard Steve Bouquet accused over the deaths of nine felines and injuries to seven more.
The 54-year-old denied 16 counts of criminal damage in relation to the animals, as well as pleading not guilty to one count of possession of a knife.
Proceedings started at Chichester Crown Court on Tuesday in Bouquet's absence, after the accused did not appear for his trial.
Between 2018 and 2019, police in Brighton were receiving numerous complaints of cats being seriously injured or killed, but no one had been seen committing the crimes.
It was not until an attack was caught by a previous victim's recently installed CCTV that detectives were able to bring charges against Bouquet.
Opening the case against the shopping centre security worker, prosecutor Rowan Jenkins said: "In 2018 Sussex Police commenced what became a major investigation following reports of domestic cats being targeted and deliberately stabbed in Brighton.
"Sometimes owners… found that their cats were still alive and were able to take timely action to try and save them by rushing them to their vets."
The court heard nine cats received injuries so serious they did not survive.
Mr Jenkins added: "By targeting pets, whoever was responsible was not of course just causing suffering for the animals themselves, you can imagine the actions caused understandable trauma to owners - many of whom were greatly affected both emotionally and, secondarily perhaps, financially."
"Nobody was ever caught in the act so this went on for quite a while," Mr Jenkins said, with incidents reported between October 2018 and June 2019.
On 31 May 2019, Stewart Montgomery and his partner Agatha noticed their nine-month-old kitten return home with - despite veterinary treatment - a fatal knife wound.
The couple subsequently saw a trail of blood near where they lived and a CCTV camera overlooking the scene.
The couple discovered the owner of the device had installed the system after their cat was fatally attacked in similar circumstances.
Footage from the camera appeared to show Bouquet stroking a cat before taking something from his rucksack and making a "sudden jerk" towards the creature, the jury heard.
"This is the moment we say that the defendant stabs Hendrix with some force," Mr Jenkins said.
Bouquet was arrested on 2 June 2019, and a knife in his kitchen was found to have his DNA on the handle and cat DNA on the blade.