Expedition cleared of neglect over polar bear death

A coroner has cleared an expedition company of neglect over its responsibility to protect Eton schoolboy Horatio Chapple, who was mauled to death on a school trip.

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Elderly polar bear was 'aggressive and unpredictable'

An inquest has heard how a polar bear which mauled a 17-year-old schoolboy to death was elderly and had been suffering from worn-down teeth which would have led to it becoming stressed and behaving more "aggressively and unpredictably".

The scene following the polar bear attack. Credit: ITV News

Horatio Chapple was was sleeping in his tent on holiday in the Svalbard islands in August 2011 when he was killed as the bear went on the rampage, inflicting fatal injuries.

Assistant coroner Ian Singleton said: "[The bear] had badly aligned teeth causing them to wear down more than normal.

"It's probable it affected the bear's ability to gain food and if the bear is in pain it would have increased levels of stress causing it to behave more aggressively and unpredictably than it would otherwise."

Inquest hears of polar bear victim's final moments

An inquest into how a British teenager was mauled by a polar bear today heard from the boy's companions about the incident.

ITV News Correspondent Rupert Evelyn reports from Salisbury.


Victim tells of deadly polar bear attack on tent

A young adventurer has told an inquest how a bear ripped into his tent in an attack that killed a fellow teenager.

Scott Bennell-Smith shared a tent with Horatio Chapple, who was killed.

Scott Bennell-Smith, who is now 20, shared a tent with Horatio Chapple, who was killed by the bear during the 2011 trip to Norway.

He told an inquest into his friend's death: "I felt as if we all woke up at the same time, initially when the tent was shaking I felt someone may have been shaking it to wake us up."

He said he realised they were under attack "when the bear came out the top of the tent".

He continued: "The material of the tent roof collapsed over all three of us and I could feel the presence of the bear over all of us. I could feel the size of it and see its paws."

After the bear attacked others, it then turned to him, he said - at which point he "moved away" before hearing it shot "soon after.

Polar bear attack survivor: I felt safe in the camp

A survivor of a deadly polar bear attack on a schools expedition in Norway has told an inquest he felt safe in the camp before the creature mauled him and his fellow explorers.

Patrick Flinders said the group received training on the use of trip wires on a briefing weekend before the trip with the British Schools Exploring Society "and a couple of days when we were out there".

However, he told the hearing he wasn't involved in the setting up of the system and said he also never had a discussion about a bear watch.

Mr Flinders says he also did some practice shooting with a rifle - shooting four rounds.

'I saw polar bear dragging someone by his head'

A boy who was hurt by a polar bear that killed a fellow teenager has told an inquest that he "saw the bear dragging someone out by his head" when it attacked his group's camp.

The scene following the polar bear attack.

Patrick Flinders said he heard "rustling on the tent" when the attack took place in Svalbard, Norway - adding that he "thought people were just messing around from another group [...] until the tent collapsed."

He said he thought the attack he saw was on one of the expedition's leaders, but didn't see the bear attack anyone else, including 17-year-old Horatio Chapple, who died from his injuries.

He added: "Once the tent collapsed i got into a little ball and moved over to [Scott Bennell-Smith, fellow young explorer on the trip]"

"I'm not sure if Horatio got himself out or not."

Polar bear death: Leaders 'said it was a low risk area'

A schools expedition on which a student was killed by a polar bear was told that the area they were camping in was "low risk", a member of the group has told an inquest.

Lauren Beech, who was 16 at the time of the trip, said: "The leaders laid out why they thought a bear watch wasn't required, they said it was a low risk area."

Horatio Chapple died after the 2011 attack.

She also questioned the leaders' decision to ask the group whether a watch should be held on the night before the attack.

She said: "I couldn't understand at the time as a 16-year-old and a young person I had no knowledge of the area and I put my complete trust in the leaders' knowledge."

Miss Beech said she "I heard growls of the bear along with other shouts and screams" during the attack and had seen the creatures' white fur within metres of the tent she was staying in.


Boy mauled by polar bear 'found paw print days before'

A 17-year-old schoolboy mauled to death by a polar bear during an adventure holiday had found a paw print just two days prior to the lethal attack, an inquest has heard.

Horatio Chapple was dragged out of his tent and killed by the polar bear.

Horatio Chapple was on an adventure holiday to the remote Svalbard islands in August 2011 with the British Schools Exploring Society (BSES) when he died.

Lauren Beech, from Guildford, Surrey told the Salisbury inquest that Horatio had found a bear print in the ground just two days before the attack.

And she said that she also found out after the incident that the local authorities had issued a warning about increased polar bear activities in recent months before the attack.

Bear attack group had 'improvised' defence system

The leader of the expedition on which a boy was killed by a polar bear has told an inquest the group had been supplied with an incomplete tripwire system.

The missing materials meant they had to set it up in a triangle formation rather than the advised rectangular shape, 31-year-old Michael Reid said.

He explained that his group also had to improvise using a paper clip to modify the trigger system because the brass fittings were missing.

He said: "The tripwire system in base camp worked inconsistently, the system that we tested at the ice-climbing camp on our first or second night out from the base camp operated 100% when we tested it."

'No bear watch held' on night of deadly attack

The leader of a schools expedition on which a boy was killed by a polar bear has told an inquest a bear watch was not held on the night of the attack because it would have left the team tired and vulnerable to cold-related illness the next day.

Michael Reid, known as Spike, told the hearing into the death of 17-year-old Horatio Chapple that he wrestled the bear after a rifle failed to fire.

It was then shot dead with a second rifle, by which point lethal blows had been administered to the Eton pupil's head and upper body.

Horatio Chapple died after the polar bear attack in Norway in 2011. Credit: PA

The boy's parents said they examined a risk assessment document with Horatio before he left - adding they "would not have let him go" on the Arctic expedition without believing he would be properly protected.

However, the inquest heard that there was in fact a shortage of trip wires, mines and pen flares available to the young explorers, while Reid told the inquest that his rifle failed to fire upon the attack.

Mr Chapple said the risk assessment also suggested that a bear watch would take place at the camp.

Trip leader's rifle 'failed to fire' as polar bear mauled boy

A trip leader who shot dead a polar bear on a schools expedition has told an inquest his rifle failed to fire when the creature began attacking the group.

Michael Reid or 'Spike' from Plymouth, Devon said he was awoken by several people shouting "bear attack". He then grabbed the group's rifle and left his tent.

I cocked the rifle, took aim, aimed it carefully as I didn't want to shoot the YE, although it was close I didn't want to injure the [young explorers] or worse.

So I took a carefully aimed shot at the bear in the chest area of the bear but the rifle didn't fire. I cocked the rifle again and took another attempt at an aimed shot at the bear.

I do not know why this failure was happening and so I carried on this until the magazine was empty.

– Michael Reid

He said the bear then attacked him, before he grabbed his own rifle and killed the bear "as it was attacking someone else".

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