Steve Bouquet, a security guard from Rose Hill Terrace in Brighton, was found guilty by a jury at Chichester Crown Court on June 30 of stabbing nine cats to death, injuring seven others, and being in possession of a knife, police have confirmed.
He appeared at Hove Crown Court today (Friday, 30 July) and was sentenced to five years and three months in prison.
According to police, the attacks started in October 2018 and continued over a nine-month period.
Detective inspector Chris Thompson said, “In late 2018 we became aware of a number of reports where cat owners believed their cats had been deliberately killed or injured.
“We needed to determine whether there was human involvement in these cases and submitted two cats for post mortem examinations by a specialist vet at the Royal Veterinary College.
“It was found that one of the cats had been stabbed by a sharp implement deliberately, but the other had too much surgical intervention to make a definite conclusion.
“The attacks had occurred in a fairly confined area of the city with two distinct clusters to the east and west of Preston Road, just south of Preston Park and a line from the area of Brighton railway station to close to the seafront.
“However, there were no witnesses to the savage acts and there was no indication as to who was responsible.”
Police said a breakthrough came on May 31 2019, when nine-month old cat Hendrix was stabbed by a knife in Crown Gardens, a narrow passageway linking Church Street and North Road in Brighton.
DI Thompson said Hendrix’s owners followed the blood trial out to the passageway and noticed there were CCTV cameras nearby that had been set up by a neighbour whose own cat had suffered a similar fate, having been stabbed and killed a year before.
He said, “We examined the footage and discovered that it had captured Bouquet stooping to stroke the cat before taking something from his rucksack and making a sudden jerk towards it. Hendrix fled, but he later sadly died from his injuries.
“This was to prove a turning point in our investigation as, for the first time, we had evidence of who was responsible. Two days later, on June 2, 2019, we arrested the suspect and in a search of his house found a knife with cat DNA on the blade and his DNA on the handle.
“We also found a number of images of live cats in various locations around the city and also one that showed a dead cat, Kyo that had been killed in May 2019.”
DI Thompson said Bouquet told officers cats were always friendly to him and he’d often stroke them when he was out walking.
Bouquet was bailed while police discovered he was always in Brighton and not at work at the time of the offences.
DI Thompson said, “Additionally, we found that when he had a period of leave, the attacks increased from one or two a month to several over the course of a week.
“We were aware that, with the exception of the CCTV from Crown Gardens, we were relying on circumstantial evidence, but as the investigation progressed we were able to establish location data from his mobile phone, we disproved his claim that he found the knife on his way to work on the morning of his initial arrest and a witness had come forward with a positive identification of him after seeing a man acting suspiciously shortly before a cat was found dead in the Shaftsbury Road area.”
Police said Bouquet’s laptop computer showed that he had repeatedly accessed a website in relation to lost cats in the city, paying particular attention to a cat that was killed.
Officers also found he had viewed videos of dogs killing cats and two photographs of a dead cat were recovered which police believe Bouquet took.
DI Thompson said, “No further incidents of this nature had been reported since his arrest.
“This was enough to provide us with a case to submit to the Crown Prosecution Service, who authorised the 17 charges on December 22 2019.”
Stewart Montgomery, owner of Hendrix, said losing his beloved pet had been devastating for him and his partner.
He said, “We got Hendrix as a kitten and had him less than eight months. He was such a bold cat who loved being outside but on the day he was attacked, he was only outside for about 10 minutes.
“We rushed him to the vet but was too badly injured to be saved. We miss him as he was part of our family. In fact we were so shocked about what had happened, we decided to move away from the city centre.
“We are so pleased and relived that the police arrested the person responsible and he was convicted of these shocking crimes.”
Chief superintendent Nick May, divisional commander for Brighton and Hove, said, “This has had a devastating impact on those who have had their beloved pets killed or seriously injured and Bouquet’s actions understandably caused a lot of concern and worry to other pet owners in the city.
“There have been considerable financial implications as well, with some spending up to £7,500 to try to save their animals.
“This was a necessarily complex and exhaustive investigation. I would like to express my thanks to the investigation team who worked tirelessly to bring about this successful result, to the CPS and the many experts who we have called upon to support the prosecution.”
Chf Supt May said there’s nothing to suggest Bouquet is involved in any similar incidents elsewhere in the country and there’s no indications that there is another person in the Brighton and Hove area causing harm to cats.
He said, “We understand the considerable public interest in this case and we are sharing our learning with the National Crime Agency and with other forces who have experienced similar incidents.”