The Royal Navy veteran nicknamed the Brighton cat killer died from Covid-19 while receiving end of life care for cancer in prison, a coroner has found.

Former security guard Stephen Bouquet, 55, died in Medway Maritime hospital on 5 January 2022. He was jailed for five years and three months in July 2021 for killing nine cats in East Sussex.

At an inquest in Maidstone, Kent, coroner Patricia Harding ruled that Bouquet died of natural causes, with the medical cause of death Covid-19 pneumonitis, and a secondary cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

He was receiving end of life care for thyroid cancer while serving his sentence in HMP Elmley.

Harding said it was not clear where Bouquet contracted coronavirus but he had tested positive for the illness on 28 December, a day after he was admitted to Medway Maritime hospital for a cough and breathing difficulties.

Despite receiving antibiotics, oxygen and medication specifically to treat coronavirus, his condition progressively deteriorated, the inquest heard on Thursday.

Harding said: “Despite whatever measures, he was too weak to fight the infection and sadly he died on January 5 2022, on his 55th birthday.”

The coroner also noted that earlier in December when Bouquet was transferred to HMP Elmley, he was extremely frail, had poor mobility and was vulnerable to infection.

Harding said she was satisfied that the prison followed national guidance during the pandemic to minimise the spread of the virus.

Bouquet was found guilty of 16 offences of criminal damage in relation to cats, as well as possession of a knife.He carried out a string of attacks on pets in Brighton between October 2018 and May 2019, before being caught on CCTV set up by one of the victim’s owners.

Nine cats – Hendrix, Tommy, Hannah, Alan, Nancy, Gizmo, Kyo, Ollie and Cosmo – were killed, while another seven were injured.

Bouquet served in the navy for 22 years, including in Northern Ireland and Iraq.

Addressing Bouquet’s brother at the inquest, Harding gave her condolences and apologised for the length of time it had taken to reach an inquest conclusion.

“Covid not only had an effect on everybody touched by it but also its lasting effects (mean) the investigation has taken a lot longer,” the coroner said. “I’m sorry it’s taken so long.”

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