Funeral of woman mauled to death by tiger

Sarah McClay
Sarah McClay, 24, was killed by a Sumatran tiger. Photo:

The funeral of a woman mauled to death by a tiger at a wildlife park in Cumbria is due to take place.

Sarah McClay, 24, was killed by a Sumatran tiger where she worked at the South Lakes Wild Animal Park, in Dalton-in-Furness.

Police are still investigating the incident on May 24.

Her funeral will take place at the crematorium in nearby Barrow-in-Furness.

Mourners will be led by the victim's mother, Fiona McClay, 54, and David Shaw, her childhood sweetheart, who were at her bedside as surgeons battled to save her life.

Mrs McClay has described her "wonderful" daughter as a "very smiley and very happy" person.

She was attacked by a tiger named Pandang as she cleaned out its pen and was airlifted to the Royal Preston Hospital, Lancs, where doctors operated on her.

Her mother, from Linlithgow, West Lothian, Scotland, made a mercy plea for the rare Sumatran tiger that killed her daughter to be spared - because it is what she would have wanted.

The McClay family moved to Cumbria from Glasgow in 1998. Miss McClay's father Nick died four years ago and her mother recently moved back to Scotland.

They are a close-knit family and Sarah's brother Stephen, 27, and sister Lucy, 20, are devastated by their loss.

Miss McClay studied animal conservation at university and started dating Mr Shaw when they were 16 and still at school. They had bought a house in Cumbria where they were happily settled.

Her brother Stephen said the family had been hurt by suggestions by the park's owner, David Gill, that she had died because of "keeper error" and a "sad error of judgment", describing the comments as "ill-advised, premature and disrespectful."

Cumbria Police have said an elaborate enclosure of gates meant the animals and its keepers should remain apart at all times - but this system failed, with fatal consequences.

Detectives said Miss McClay was carrying out routine duties in an enclosure to which animals were not allowed access when she was confronted by the animal which somehow entered the pen.

Officers are now trying to establish whether this was due to a technical fault or human error, but have said there is no suggestion of foul play or issue of suicide or self-harm.

Loved ones of Miss McClay say she would not want even a flower to die in her name, and have asked that instead of memorial wreaths, people donate to red squirrel conservation - a cause she was passionate about.

The funeral service begins at 2.15pm.