A SECURITY guard is accused of killing nine cats and injuring seven more in a string of attacks in Brighton that left police stumped for months, prosecutors say.

Detectives received more and more reports of beloved pets being seriously injured or killed in suspicious circumstances in 2018 and 2019 but nobody was caught in the act.

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.

Previously in the trial: 'Knife found with cat blood at defendant's home'

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 Argus: Steve Bouquet at a previous hearing

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

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.

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.

Previously in the trial: 'Knife found with cat blood at defendant's home'

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.