A Great Fryup Dale man is appealing against his conviction for slaying four baby moggies by strangling and hitting them over the head with a mallet.
Former pig farmer, John Akrill, 47, was convicted last month of killing the animals in a sinister revenge mission against his ex-partner.
On March 23, Scarborough magistrates jailed Akrill for 20 weeks and banned him from keeping animals for life after he admitted causing unnecessary suffering to the kittens by killing them in an inhumane manner on August 16 last year.
Akrill claims he slew the eight-week-old kittens because they had cat flu and there was a risk that the virus could have spread to other animals he kept at his rural home in Great Fryup Dale.
He and his legal team have now launched an appeal against the conviction, claiming that at least one of the black-and-white kittens may have been carrying the contagion.
Akrill appeared from the cells for the appeal hearing at York Crown Court on Friday, when prosecuting barrister John Boumphrey said there was no evidence that any of the kittens had been suffering from cat flu and every indication they were in good health.
He said Akrill snapped the kittens’ necks one by one, before battering them with a hammer on the courtyard outside his two-bedroom cottage, which was drenched in blood.
Mr Boumphrey said each kitten had its head caved in, but the worst injuries were found on a fluffy male tabby which Akrill knew was his ex-partner’s favourite.
He added that a veterinary post-mortem revealed no signs of illness in either the kittens or two adult cats which had been kept by Akrill and his partner before they split up.
The vet’s report stated that if strangulation did not cause the kittens to die instantly, it would have taken a few minutes for them to die in agony.
Akrill claims the kittens were already dead from the hammer blows and that he had “euthanased” them to prevent them dying a horrible flu death.
He said he hit them with the mallet to make “doubly sure” they were dead.
Mr Boumphrey said that before the horrific slaying, Akrill had sent spiteful texts to his ex-partner threatening to have the kittens “put down”, as well as the two adult cats whose lives were spared.
The father-of-one - who is due to be released on prison licence on May 29 - said he disputed the text evidence as well as the findings of the post-mortem which suggested the kittens did not have cat flu.
Akrill’s defence barrister Matthew Collins said: “He says the vet said the kittens may have cat flu. He admits causing unnecessary suffering but without intent.”
Due to the new defence claims, Recorder Tim Roberts QC ordered a Newton hearing, or ‘trial of issue’, where fresh evidence will be presented to the court regarding the text messages and the veterinary examinations.
The hearing was set for May 29, when the court will decide whether there is any substance to Akril’s claims that a vet found nasal discharge on one of the kittens - a common flu symptom.