A shopping centre security guard has been found guilty of carrying out a gruesome campaign of cat killings that left detectives stumped for months.
Steve Bouquet, 54, attacked 16 cats in Brighton, East Sussex, killing nine.
On Wednesday a jury at Chichester Crown Court found him guilty of 16 offences of criminal damage, in relation to the cats, and possession of a knife.
Dubbed the “Brighton cat killer”, Bouquet was able to move through the city unseen and unheard as he knifed people’s beloved pets, his trial heard.
The campaign of attacks went on for several months between October 2018 and June 2019.
Nine cats – Hendrix, Tommy, Hannah, Alan, Nancy, Gizmo, Kyo, Ollie and Cosmo – were killed while another seven were injured.
After the verdicts were read out, Judge Jeremy Gold QC said: “I suggest it is only really during lockdown it has been particularly clear how much many of us who have pets rely on them for companionship and comfort and one can only imagine the distress that was caused to the owners of those various cats in this case at the very thought of having a knife plunged into their beloved pet.”
He also told jurors that Bouquet, who failed to appear for his trial, had been apprehended and is currently being assessed in hospital – a fact that can now be reported after restrictions were lifted.
During the trial jurors heard accounts from several cat owners who had found their pets bleeding on their doorsteps.
Tina Randall described the moment she discovered her 11-year-old cat Gideon had been injured in November 2018.
“He was fading and as I picked him up, blood splurted out,” she said.
“I immediately thought it was a stab wound.”
Gideon eventually recovered from the three-quarter inch wound, Ms Randall told the court, and vet bills for his surgery came to more than £1,600.
Jeff Carter described finding a pool of blood on his doorstep in Shaftesbury Road and finding his cat Nancy hiding underneath his bed in March 2019.
“I saw that Nancy had a large wound on the right side of her body that was bleeding heavily,” he said in a statement.
Nancy suffered a cardiac crash and was given CPR and put on a ventilator but did not survive her injuries.
Jurors heard how Craig Neeld had been walking along Shaftesbury Road on the same day that Nancy was found stabbed.
In his statement, he described receiving a phone call from his friend Barry, who asked him to look out for a “guy acting really odd”.
Mr Neeld said he saw a bald man who was “bending over and moving his arms” as if operating a camera phone and thought he was “up to no good”.
Mr Neeld later identified Bouquet as the man he had seen at a police identification procedure, the court heard.
A breakthrough in the search for the Brighton cat killer came when a CCTV system set up by an owner of a killed cat appeared to capture a fresh attack on camera, a court heard.
Prosecutor Rowan Jenkins said: “He made a single mistake but that was all that was needed to expose him.”
In his police interview read out in court, Bouquet told officers that all he knew about the cat killings was what he had read in the newspapers and online.
He told police he was “no threat to animals” – but a photo of a dead cat was found on his phone, the court heard.
A provisional date for sentencing has been set for July 12.