A Liverpool fan beat a hedgehog to death with a brick during an argument with his girlfriend.
Liam Aitken, 24, battered the defenceless creature six times in his front garden as he returned home from a dog walk in May.
A horrified neighbour reported him to the RSPCA after witnessing the savage assault in Wallasey, Merseyside.
Thug: This Liverpool fan beat a hedgehog to death with a brick during an argument with his girlfriend
Mangled: Liam Aitken, 24, battered the defenceless creature six times in his front garden as he returned home from a dog walk in May
Aitken was given a 12-month suspended sentence after admitting one charge of causing unnecessary suffering to a hedgehog by crushing the animal to death.
A post mortem found the hedgehog died from blunt force trauma and had injuries including a fractured pelvis and broken legs.
Aitken said he thought he had thrown the brick three or four times and accepted he had caused serious injuries to the hedgehog.
Chris Murphy, prosecuting for the RSPCA, told Wirral Magistrates Court: ‘He said he was truly sorry for his actions and had no idea why he had done it.’
Aitken, who has no previous convictions and is currently unemployed, wept as Leanne Kennedy, defending, told the court he had never previously harmed an animal.
She said her client had been ‘victimised’ by his neighbours since the incident, with signs placed around his house branding him a ‘hedgehog killer’.
Ms Kennedy said Aitken’s partner, with whom he has a one-year-old daughter, was supporting him but she was horrified at his actions and asked him to leave the family home for a night.
Aitken said he thought he had thrown the brick three or four times
Ms Kennedy said: ‘Mr Aitken cannot give any explanation at all as to why he acted in this manner.
‘He is extremely remorseful. He is genuinely sorry for what he has done. He certainly doesn’t condone what he did.
‘At the time he wasn’t in a very good place and was drinking a lot. He was extremely depressed at the time and the week before had taken an overdose. He had been arguing with his partner.
‘He said he was distraught. Had he walked a different way the hedgehog would still be alive today.’
Magistrates told Aitken the incident was a ‘horrendous act’ against a defenceless animal.
He was given a 12-week prison sentence, suspended for a year, and told to complete 200 hours of unpaid work.
He was also ordered to pay £835 in costs and attend a six-month alcohol treatment programme.
RSPCA inspector Anthony Joynes said: ‘This stomach-churning act of cruelty was witnessed by a member of the public, who saw him throwing a brick at something. When they went out to investigate they were shocked to see it was a hedgehog.
‘A post mortem examination carried out on the hedgehog showed that he had multiple fractures and a ruptured abdomen. Clearly he would have suffered significantly from this trauma.
‘When I interviewed Aitken, he said that the hedgehog had actually tried to get up and move after being hit for the third time. He also said he did not know why he did it.
‘If you have had an argument with someone and are angry, it is always a good idea to take a walk to calm down – but you certainly should not take it out on a vulnerable animal. What Aitken did is very disturbing behaviour which we have taken very seriously.’
RSPCA inspector Anthony Joynes said: ‘This stomach-churning act of cruelty was witnessed by a member of the public’