The Mosta man suspected of having crucified 11 cats “loves” two of his own, his neighbours told Times of Malta.

“He cares deeply for those two cats of his. But then I also feel he is sometimes abusive towards them,” one Mosta resident said.

“I always thought he had a bizarre relationship with them.

“He keeps them very well, they’re healthy and well fed, but whenever they run out into the street he grabs them and shouts abuse at them.”

The local, who preferred not to be named, lives a stone’s throw away from Nicholas Grech, the 37-year-old Enemalta engineer suspected of gruesomely crucifying some 14 animals, including four dogs, which have made national headlines since 2011.

“I’ve often heard him calling his cats ‘sluts’,” she said.

Another resident said she once saw Mr Grech chase a street cat down the street with a broom.

“Once I was coming home and I noticed him walking up to a cat which was near his house. He chased it away with a broom and told his cat to go straight inside,” he said.

Mr Grech lives with his elderly mother in a small house in a peaceful cul-de-sac in Mosta.

He has no local hangouts and not many local friends, residents said. He does, however, have a history of anti-social behaviour, having harassed the family of a woman rumoured to have denied his romantic advances some 10 years ago.

Neighbours said the woman, a teacher from Salina, had rejected Mr Grech after friends had played a trick on him, telling the man that she was attracted to him.

When he found out, an enraged Mr Grech painted public hate messages against the woman on a wall close to her home.

He was later accused of vandalising public property and harassment but was discharged after doctors testified that he suffered from frequent delusions and mental instability.

News of his possible involvement came as no surprise to the residents who knew him.

One local described him as “solitary and terrifying”.

“I don’t talk to him. I don’t even look at him. He’s intimidating. He’s a big man with a chilling stare that stays with you,” she said.

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