THREE family cats were trapped by a neighbour and dumped on farmland miles away by a pensioner angry over their impact on his garden.
Gordon Wilson, 74, lured the animals into a home-made cage baited with tuna.
The owners’ distraught children put up posters and delivered leaflets to help find the pets.
But only one ever found its way back to its home in Hunmanby, Filey, and was killed in a car accident two weeks later.
Wilson was caught when he set his trap again months later.
The pensioner, who had lived next door but one to Joanne Wilcockson, 27, all her life, hated the animals which he secretly blamed for polluting his pristine garden.
But when three of their cats, Pumpkin, Morris and Pansy, went missing in as many days in April she never dreamed the culprit would be so close to home.
In the summer, they got another cat, Pip, but when he did not return, her husband Sean, 28, went to look for him and heard his cries under a bush in Wilson’s immaculate front garden.
“I realised it was a trap immediately,” he said. His wife said: “If Pip had not squealed like that we would never have found him and he’d have gone too and we’d have been none the wiser.”
Wilson was arrested, telling investigators he did not like his garden being used by cats.
He was fined £250 for theft by Scarborough magistrates and ordered to pay £205 in compensation. After the hearing he would only say: “It’s not something I’m proud of.”
Mrs Wilcockson said: “He came around to the house to apologise to the whole family. He said he was very sorry for what he had done and would never have done it if he had known the hurt he was causing. We still do talk to him, though. He is very remorseful.
“We don’t expect to ever see the other two cats again but if anyone knows anything we would like to know if they are all right.”
PC Graham Bilton, wildlife crime officer with North Yorkshire Police, said: “This case has generated quite a lot of ill feeling within the local community.
“Issues surrounding domestic cats are a very emotive subject. However, these animals are more often than not, much-loved family pets and members of the public cannot simply take the law into their own hands.
“Hopefully, this case will highlight this fact and shows that both the police and RSPCA will take such matters very seriously.”