TOKYO - In a shocking case of animal cruelty that has gripped Japan, a former tax accountant on Tuesday (Nov 28) pleaded guilty in a Tokyo District Court for mauling of 13 stray cats.
Makoto Oya, 52, confessed to catching the cats with steel traps, before drenching them in boiling water and burning them with a gas torch.
He committed the crimes between March 2016 and April 2017 at his home in Saitama prefecture, to the north of Tokyo. Nine of the cats died in shock, while the other four were severely injured.
Prosecutors are seeking a jail term of one year and 10 months, while defence lawyers are hoping to win a suspended sentence.
District Judge Yasunobu Hosoya will hand down the verdict on December 12.
Oya, who was arrested in August on suspicion of animal cruelty, had initially denied the allegations saying that what he had been doing amounted to "pest extermination".
The case has shocked Japan - a petition calling for justice to be served has gathered 210,000 signatures since Oya's arrest, while the newspaper Tokyo Sports reported that some 348 cat lovers queued up for the 27 seats in the public gallery.
Among them was veteran actress-singer Aya Sugimoto, who said after the hearing: "This was not just morbid, but Oya took pleasure in tormenting the cats. I really hope to see him punished severely as a deterrence for something like this to ever happen again."
Oya told the court on Tuesday that he had begun capturing stray cats and letting them go some distance away from his house around April 2015, after he found cat urine and faeces near his home. He also claimed that the stray cats had killed the fish he was rearing at the time.
He said that his hatred towards cats intensified in February 2016 after he was bitten by one.
He claimed to have been seeking solace in an online community of cat abusers, as he filmed his cruel acts and posted the clips onto the Internet. He reportedly uploaded the videos on a public Wi-Fi network, so as to avoid detection.
Prosecutors, in arguing for a harsh sentence, said that Oya found "immense joy in tormenting the cats".
But the defence, in mitigation, said that Oya has already suffered "social sanctions", noting that he has lost his job after his arrest and been ostracised by society.