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Inquest hears how tiger 'tore through enclosure door'

A tiger "tore through" the door of an enclosure which had a defective bolt and then "pounced" on a zoo keeper, a witness told an inquest today.

Sarah McClay, 24, was attacked in the keepers' corridor and dragged by the back of her neck into the tiger's den.

Sarah McClay, 24, was attacked in the keepers' corridor Credit: ITV Granada

A visitor to South Lakes Wild Animal Park in Dalton-in-Furness, Cumbria, described the moment he saw the tiger walk through the door and on to the corridor as Miss McClay had her back turned.

A jury sitting in Kendal, Cumbria, has heard that systems were place in to ensure that animals and keepers remained apart at all times through indoor and outdoor compartments connected by lockable doors.

Within the tiger enclosure was a light den and a dark den for the tiger which keepers were required to enter in the course of routine duties such as cleaning.

Tiger enclosure at South Lakes Wild Animal Park Credit: ITV Granada

Yesterday the inquest heard that a bolt on the top of the dark den door, which opened on to the keepers' corridor, was found to be defective in the hours following her death on May 24 last year but it could not be said when the damage occurred. An environmental health officer told the jury that the bolt could not be held back and it would bang against the frame when it tried to close, which left a gap of between 20mm and 25mm.

Gareth Bell, 34, from Newcastle, who was visiting the park with his wife and their young children on the day of the attack, described what he saw through the viewing windows of the tiger house.

It is thought he was the only person to witness the attack.

He said he saw a tiger move through an internal sliding gate which linked the light den to the dark den.

Then he moved to another window and saw a zoo keeper with her back to him, putting down a bucket near the slide controls next to the light den door.

In "a split second" the tiger moved through the door of the adjoining dark den which led on to the corridor, he said.

He said:

"I saw it coming through the door. It tore through. It just walked straight through.

"It walked past her first because she was in the corner and it turned to get her.

"She turned around and started. She was not expecting it to be there.

"It turned and pounced. That is when I shouted for help.

"When I looked back I looked where she was. The tiger had her by the back of her neck. It was dragging her back into the (dark) den."

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He said he turned away again to call for assistance and when he looked back the door to the dark den had shut. Mr Bell said he went to the far viewing window and looked into the light den where all he could see was an arm coming out of a sliding gate which led to the dark den.

He told Paul Rogers, representing the wildlife park, that the dark den door was "sufficiently open" for the tiger to get through before the attack.

Mr Bell said he saw another tiger appear on the scene and they were "disputing" as the zoo keeper was dragged into the dark den.


Keeping victims' informed is vital says Baroness Newlove

Baroness Helen Newlove

The Victims' Commissioner says keeping victims of crime informed about what is happening in their case is absolutely vital. In a visit to the Victim Liaison Unit for Mersey and Cheshire, Baroness Newlove praised the dedication of staff in helping victims through the maze of the criminal justice system. Helen Newlove has campaigned since her husband Gary was kicked to death outside their home in Warrington.

The new unit was opened in April 2014, following a wider pilot project by the Crown Prosecution Service to determine the most effective way to respond to victims’ queries. The unit works to inform the victim if the prosecution decides to discontinue a case or alter a charge and it also handles complaints and the Victims' Right to Review scheme.

“Victims and their families need to be listened to and have open and honest conversations about what is happening to them.

“It will only cause a victim more pain if they are not properly informed about developments in their case. I can see that staff at this unit work hard to make sure victims can understand why decisions are made in a compassionate, clear and timely way.

“It was also useful to see how the Right to Review is handled in person as it’s an important tool for those who want to challenge a court decision and hold the CPS to account.

“Over the next few months, I look forward to working closely with the CPS to see how these new units are working and how we can continue to make positive improvements for victims.”

– Baroness Newlove

Hillsborough inquests see original account from witness

Inspector Brian Huckstepp was a constable in 1989, tasked with policing the area outside the Leppings Lane turnstiles at Hillsborough.

The court was shown a passage of Mr Huckstepp's original account of events at Hillsborough which was later removed. It read:

Mr Huckstepp's original account Credit: Hillsborough Inquests

"Throughout the incident both outside and inside the ground there seemed to be communication problems. It seemed that many didn't know what was going on or what was the best course of action. The crush outside the ground could possibly have been better controlled with more police officers and a better regulation of the glow of fans up to the turnstiles. At the time when the crush reached its height our particular serial [group of officers] seemed to be down to a quarter strength of what it should have been. "I believe that opening the outer gates was a very necessary decision as the situation was becoming out of hand and a serious risk of injury. Knowing the Hillsborough ground as I do and how the Leppings Lane end fills up it might possibly have been better to direct the fans coming in through the open gates into the flank areas, which I saw were by no means full."

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The witness said he was content with the removal and signed the amended version without pressure. He later discovered his claims about the strength of his serial were inaccurate.

He said: "I put my initial account in on the understanding that the organisation wanted to know what had happened on the day. It was put in opinions, how you felt about things, all the kind of things that I wouldn't normally have put in a criminal justice statement. And then I understood that the process on from that, that then those accounts would now be required for a legal process with the Taylor Inquiry and that they needed to be put into a position that they then became factual accounts as opposed to accounts that included opinion."

Mr Huckstepp, who was a young officer with two years' experience in 1989, agreed that while parts of the removed section were expressions of opinion, others were observations of fact on the day.

Pete Weatherby QC, representing 22 of the bereaved families, put it to him that the deletion came about because there were aspects which were "embarrassing or difficult for South Yorkshire Police."

He replied: "Whether that was the case or not, that was not the reason that was given to me and that’s not the reason I agreed to it being removed."

Mr Weatherby continued: "You put it in because that’s what you had observed or that was your truth. You didn’t take it out because it wasn't the truth, did you?"

"No," he responded. "I was happy to put it in at the time and I’m happy that it’s still in."

Two men arrested in hunt for Michael Carter's killer

Two men have been arrested following the death of a father-of-four from Manchester.

Michael Carter, 49, died from a head injury four days after being attacked in the city centre. It happened on the 31st August outside the Revolution Bar on Southgate.

Michael Carter, father of four Credit: ITV Granada

A 20-year-old man from Urmston was arrested on suspicion of murder and a 19-year-old man from Stretford was arrested on suspicion of affray.

They both remain in police custody for questioning.

Anyone with information should phone police on 0161 856 3400 or the independent charity Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.

Man jailed after DNA on lollipop linked him to attempted murder

A man has been jailed after his DNA on a lollipop in a getaway car linked him to a shooting outside a barber's shop.

Rymel Downer, 25, was jailed for 17 years for attempted murder after a man in south Manchester in May 2013.

Rymel Downer Credit: Greater Manchester Police

The victim was shot three times from a car in Fallowfield on May 25th.

The car was later found burnt out, but forensics teams recovered a lollipop next to the gearstick, containing Downer’s DNA.

A CD wallet left in the vehicle also had Downer’s fingerprints on it.

Detectives gathered further evidence against Downer, including mobile phone records which proved he was in south Manchester at the time of the shooting.

“Everything about this incident points to a concerted effort to kill the victim and it is only by the tiniest of margins that he survived.

“Downer was clearly confident of getting away with his crime, however officers quickly build up a wealth of evidence against him and today justice has been done."

– Detective Chief Inspector Pete Marsh
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