Bouquets is accused of stabbing 16 cats in Brighton during 2018 and 2019 (Image: EDDIE MITCHELL)

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A security guard is accused of killing nine cats and injuring seven more in a string of attacks before being captured on CCTV petting then stabbing one of them, prosecutors said.

Detectives received repeated reports of beloved pets being seriously injured or killed in suspicious circumstances in 2018 and 2019 but they struggled to catch the culprit.

A breakthrough in the gruesome mystery came when a CCTV system set up by an owner of a different slain cat appeared to capture a fresh attack on camera, a court heard.

Steve Bouquet, 54, from Brighton, East Sussex, previously pleaded not guilty to 16 counts of criminal damage in relation to cats and one count of possession of a knife.

The shopping mall security guard did not appear at Chichester Crown Court on Tuesday and the trial went ahead in his absence.

Kyo, a cat belonging to Paul Tofts, is thought to have been killed by a cat killer in the city

Prosecutor Rowan Jenkins told jurors: "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."

However, nine cats received injuries so serious that they could not be saved, the court heard.

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."

He said the wounds were "penetrative and clean", and caused by a sharp article such as a knife.

Prosecutors have said Bouquet was seen stroking a cat and then they believe he stabbed the feline
(Image: PA)

The attacks went on for several months between October 2018 and June 2019, with police unable to identify a subject despite their efforts.

"Nobody was ever caught in the act so this went on for quite a while," Mr Jenkins said.

On May 31, 2019, Stewart Montgomery and his partner Agatha were at home when their nine-month-old black kitten Hendrix came in bleeding heavily.

They rushed him to the vet but the injury – a single knife wound driven right through from side to side – was too severe and he did not survive.

When he got home, Mr Montgomery noticed a trail of blood and saw a CCTV camera nearby.

Detectives were puzzled by the spree of cat attacks in Brighton as they struggled to catch anyone in the act
(Image: eddie mitchell)

The camera had in fact been set up by a neighbour whose cat had been stabbed and killed the year before, the court heard.

Footage was obtained that appears to show Bouquet stroking a cat and taking something from his rucksack before making a "sudden jerk" with his arm, the prosecutor said.

"This is the moment we say that the defendant stabs Hendrix with some force," Mr Jenkins said.

After Bouquet was arrested on June 2, 2019, officers searched his house and found a knife in the kitchen area.

Scientific inquiries found his DNA on the handle and domestic cat DNA was found on the blade, the court heard.

The trial continues.