The Brighton cat killer has been sentenced for a string of attacks after it emerged that he has been connected with as many as seven other pet deaths.
Steve Bouquet, a security guard and former Royal Navy gunner, was on Friday sentenced to five years and three months in prison after he was convicted last month of 16 offences of criminal damage in relation to the cats and possession of a knife.
Nine cats named Hendrix, Tommy, Hannah, Alan, Nancy, Gizmo, Kyo, Ollie and Cosmo were killed while another seven were injured between October 2018 and May 2019.
Earlier this month it emerged that Sussex Police sent a total of 23 cases to the Crown Prosecution Service, but only 16 were taken to court.
Boudicca Rising, who began tracking the Brighton Cat Killer after his first stabbing, said it was “highly likely” he was responsible for all 23.
'I never thought he would end up being murdered by a person'
The owners of some of the cats killed in the attacks were in Hove Crown Court to see Bouquet, who served for 22 years including in Northern Ireland and Iraq, appear before the judge for the first time after not attending his trial.
Victim Lucy Kenward fought back tears as she said she still cannot understand why someone would kill cats.
She added: "Cosmo was my first cat as an adult. I had him for eight years before he was killed.
"I never thought he would end up being murdered by a person. It still seems quite unbelievable."
Ms Kenward said she spent more than £5,000 on vet bills in the hopes of saving her beloved Cosmo, but he died with a stab wound.
'I cried myself to sleep every night'
Andrea Williams told the court how she was "inconsolable" after her cat Wheatley went missing.
She said: "I cried myself to sleep every night for ages.
"This went on for three months until his body was finally discovered in a neighbour's garden. He had been 10 metres from the house all along.
"We had what was in essence a murderer walking the streets with a knife and intent to harm and kill."
Ms Williams said the loss of her cat led her to sell her Brighton home "just to get away".
Bouquet’s spree in Brighton was finally captured on CCTV set up by an owner of a dead cat.
When police raided his home, they found a photo of a dead cat on his phone, a knife with feline blood on it and his DNA on the handle, while mobile phone evidence placed him in the vicinity of many of the stabbings.
Sentencing Bouquet, Judge Jeremy Gold QC said his behaviour was "cruel, it was sustained and it struck at the very heart of family life".
He added: "It is important that everyone understands that cats are domestic pets but they are more than that. They are effectively family members.
"They are much loved by the adults and children who live with and care for them.
"Cats and all domestic animals are a source of joy and support to their owners, especially during lockdown.
Judge Gold said he took Bouquet's previous good character and military service into account when deciding on the sentence.
Jayne Cioffi from the CPS said: "This has been a tragic case for all the owners involved. Not only did Steve Bouquet inflict horrendous suffering to each of the animals he attacked, but he also caused real trauma to their owners, many of whom found their beloved pets injured and bleeding.
"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."