Brighton cat killer is jailed for five years
Brighton cat killer Steve Bouquet 54, is jailed for five years for killing nine cats and maiming seven more during nine-month animal cruelty campaign
- Steve Bouquet, 54, approached the pets close to their homes in East Sussex
- The cats were left to die after being brutally stabbed in the stomach and legs
- From October 2018 to June 2019, Bouquet killed nine cats and injured seven
- Shopping centre security guard jailed for a total of five years and three months
An ex-Royal Navy gunner dubbed the Brighton cat killer has been jailed for more than five years after being found guilty of killing nine cats and maiming seven more during a nine-month campaign of cruelty.
Steve Bouquet, 54, approached the pets close to their homes and began to show them affection before launching his attacks in East Sussex.
The cats that greeted the shopping centre security guard were left to die after he pulled out a knife and stabbed them with ‘force’.
Bouquet’s killing spree brought fear to pet owners across the seaside resort who were too scared to let their cats out.
Between October 2018 and June 2019, Bouquet stabbed at least 16 pet cats, killing nine and seriously injuring seven.
He was only caught after the owner of one killed cat set up CCTV overlooking the alleyway outside his house and caught him attacking his final victim.
Pet owners broke down in tears today at Hove Crown Court while reading statements about the impact of their beloved pets’ deaths.
Steve Bouquet (pictured above), 54, approached the pets close to their homes and began to show them affection before launching his attacks in Brighton, East Sussex
Claire Taylor with her cat Merlin. Bouquet is thought to have killed other cats, including Merlin, but this allegation was not added to the charges as there was not enough evidence to prosecute
Emma O’Sullivan, whose cat Gizmo was killed, wept as she told the court: ‘I miss Gizmo every day. After it happened it could not sleep. I spent many months in therapy working through what had happened.
‘I’ll miss her for the rest of my life. She was such a friendly and loving cat who loved sitting outside the house getting petted by people walking past.’
Katerine Mattock, owner of Alan, said: ‘This was a murder of innocent and much-loved cat called Alan. Alan was my family. He made my house a home.
‘One minute he was running round the kitchen then next he was dead, covered in blood.
‘He had an innocent and playful nature. It was dreadful to think he went to a stranger for a stroke and then got a stab instead. In the immediate time after his death meant I had to have medication to sleep. Law is not fit for purpose.’
Lucy Kenward, who spent £5,000 on veterinary treatment trying to save her cat Cosmo, broke down in tears as she recalled the horrific killing.
She said: ‘I thought he may be injured, get hit by a car, get into a fight with other cats but I never expected him to be stabbed by a person.’
Andrea Williams, whose pet Wheatley was injured and then later died, said her cat was a Maine coon.
Between October 2018 and June 2019, Bouquet stabbed at least 16 pet cats across the seaside resort, killing nine and seriously injuring seven
Black cat Sammy, whose owner Jean Powell was among those who reported that their cats had fallen victim to a killer
Black cat Kyo (pictured), who belonged to Paul Tofts, was killed in May 2019. Sentencing, Judge Jeremy Gold QC said the crimes were ‘appalling’
Nancy, who belonged to Jeff Carter, was killed in March 2019. When police searched Bouquet’s flat they found a knife stained with feline blood in his kitchen
Alan, who belonged to Katherine Maddock, was killed in February 2019. His owner told the court: ‘Alan was my family. He made my house a home’
Samson, who was injured but survived. Authorities fear that Bouquet could be responsible for more than 30 cat attacks in the city
How a single mistake led to the unmasking of the Brighton cat killer
Police spent months chasing after a faceless and nameless cat killer who was finally exposed after he made a single mistake, prosecutors say.
Security guard Steve Bouquet was able to move through the city of Brighton undetected, preying on cats in a gruesome spree that left nine of the creatures dead and others injured.
As well as leaving owners traumatised at finding their beloved pets bleeding on their doorsteps, the string of attacks prompted fear and confusion in the East Sussex city.
In the end, it was a CCTV camera set up by one such owner that captured Bouquet on video – evidence prosecutors say was ‘pivotal’ in finally bringing the bloody campaign to an end.
Convicted at trial of 16 offences of criminal damage and possession of a knife, 54-year-old Bouquet was jailed for five years and three months at Hove Crown Court on Friday.
District crown prosecutor Sally Lakin said the case was ‘highly unusual’ with cats being attacked at a rate she had never seen before.
She said: ‘When we deal with cases that concern injuries or death to animals it’s usually the actual owner being responsible for inflicting suffering on their own animal, but of course this was a very different case.
‘Steve Bouquet preyed on a large number of cats from his local area and inflicted horrendous harm and suffering on them and a great deal of trauma to their owners, who ultimately discovered their cats injured.’
Ms Lakin said Bouquet ‘certainly wouldn’t have been caught so quickly’ had it not been for the CCTV which appeared to capture one of his attacks on camera.
Even so, with so many incidents it took police and the CPS ‘well over a year’ to investigate and authorise charges.
After arresting Bouquet, police were able to use mobile phone data to link his movements to many of the attacks.
But even now, nearly three years after the first attack in October 2018, the motives behind his offending remain a mystery.
Ms Lakin added: ‘I think it’s a shame for the owners of the cats that they don’t know why he did it. ‘It’s such an unusual offence and extremely traumatic.
‘You could guess all day long as to why somebody would do something so heinous.’
With Bouquet now facing a prison sentence of five years and three months, Ms Lakin says she hopes the convictions give the owners and the wider community ‘some peace and comfort’ and stressed that offending of this type is ‘extremely rare’.
‘Our cat was famous in Brighton, a feline celebrity. People went out of their way to come and talk to him. He showed us so much love. I still wake up in the small hours thinking of him and crying.
‘We had a murderer walking the streets with a knife with an intent to kill.’
She said she developed ‘acute paranoia’ and mental health suffered as a result.
Bouquet, who authorities fear could be responsible for over 30 cat attacks in the city, was charged with 16 offences of criminal damage because, under current legislation, cats and other animals are deemed to be property.
He failed to appear at court for his trial last month, and was tried and convicted in his absence of all 16 counts of criminal damage and the possession of a bladed article.
Police eventually apprehended him after a tip off from a member of the public who saw him drinking and behaving oddly at a park in Brighton.
Sentencing, Judge Jeremy Gold QC said the crimes were ‘appalling’ and the impact on the owners and their families was ‘considerable and grave’.
‘No explanation for your behaviour has been put forward but no sensible explanation could be advanced.’
He jailed Bouquet for five years for the cat killings, three months for possession of the knife to be served concurrently and three months for failing to answer bail to be served consecutively – a total sentence of five years and three months.
The court heard the attacks began in October 2019 with cats being indiscriminately stabbed in the street.
Police were initially stumped for clues as more than a dozen cats were killed or maimed in horrific stabbings.
For nine months owners were left terrified of letting their cats out of the front door in case they fell victim to the killer.
A breakthrough in the search for the 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.
Footage shows the moment Bouquet struck after stooping to stroke Hendrix, a nine-month-old black kitten, on the narrow passageway linking Church Street and North Road in Brighton.
Bouquet can be seen taking something from his rucksack and then making a sudden jerk forwards, towards the cat who then flees into his house.
Rowan Jenkins, prosecuting, said that in the footage Bouquet can be seen stopping and beginning to show affection to Hendrix.
He told the jury: ‘But as he goes he seems to take something from his rucksack and you will see a sudden jerk form the defendant’s arm which is the moment he stabs Hendrix with force.
‘Hendrix immediately gets to his feet and flees to his home. The defendant is seen to rearrange his rucksack and walks past the camera.’
Hendrix was later found by his owners bleeding heavily from an apparent knife wound and he was rushed to a vet but sadly died of his injuries.
When his owner, Stewart Montgomery, discovered his neighbour, Mr Levy, had a CCTV camera trained on the alleyway he approached him and the pair viewed the footage of the stabbing.
The footage was instrumental in catching Bouquet, police said.
A handout CCTV image issued by the Crown Prosecution Service showing Bouquet befriending a cat before going on to stab it
The cats Bouquet killed on his nine-month campaign of cruelty
1. Hannah, who belonged to Alan Levy in October 2018.
2. Tommy, who belonged to Carolyn Green in November 2018.
3. Alan, who belonged to Katherine Maddock in February 2019.
4. Nancy, who belonged to Jeff Carter in March 2019.
5. Gizmo, who belonged to Emma O’Sullivan in March 2019.
6. Hendrix, who belonged to Stewart Montgomery, in May 2019.
7. Kyo, who belonged to Paul Tofts in May 2019.
8. Ollie, who belonged to Suzanne McKenzie in May 2019.
9. Cosmo, who belonged to Lucy Kenward in June 2019.
Mr Jenkins said: ‘He made a single mistake but that was all that was needed to expose him.’
Two days later, Mr Levy saw Bouquet walking past his house again on his live CCTV and immediately called police and officers who had been hunting the alleged cat killer for almost a year attended.
They arrested him minutes later and after searching him they found a Leatherman multi-tool on him.
The court heard Bouquet had several pictures of the cats he attacked, both alive and dead, on his phone.
When police searched his flat they found a knife stained with feline blood in his kitchen.
Phone data also placed him at or near the scene where the cats were attacked at almost the exact time.
Judge Jeremy Gold QC described the attacks as very unpleasant and said they had a significant impact on the owners who relied on their cats for companionship and comfort.
Nine pets died following vicious attacks with a knife or knives, the court heard.
Hannah, Tommy, Alan, Nancy, Gizmo, Kyo, Ollie, Hendrix and Cosmo were all killed.
Another seven animals – Wheatley, Alistair, Rigby, Gideon, Samson, Jasper and Maggie – survived, although Wheatley later died from his injuries.
Ravi Dogra, defending, said Bouquet served in the Royal Navy for 22 years and may suffer from PTSD.
The court heard he served in Northern Ireland and manned a gun post on a ship during service in Iraq.
Mr Dogra said that Bouquet now has thyroid cancer which has spread to his liver and his lungs.
Speaking after the sentencing Jayne Cioffi, Senior Crown Prosecutor for the CPS, said: ‘None of us can comprehend what drove Bouquet to do this to family pets.
‘His claims that it was simply chance that he was present at various times when the animals were attacked were rightly dismissed by the jury after being disproved by the investigation and prosecution work.’
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