Farmer 'unaware' of previous incidents before West Yorkshire man trampled by cows

Michael Holmes, 57, was fatally crushed by the cattle on 29 September 2020 Credit: Family Photo

A court has heard how a farmer "had no choice" over putting his cows, which trampled a West Yorkshire man to death, in a field with a footpath running through it.

Michael Holmes, 57, was crushed to death by the cows following the incident in September 2020. His wife, Teresa Holmes, was left with life changing injuries and wheelchair-bound.

The couple were on a lunchtime walk during the Covid-19 lockdown with two dogs on leads when they crossed a field at Hollinghurst Farm in Netherton, West Yorkshire.

An inquest at Wakefield Civil and Family Justice Centre previously heard they entered a field at JA Mitchell & Sons Farm, and followed a public footpath up a steep hill but were unaware that several dozen cows with calves were at the top of the slope.

CCTV footage from a nearby property appeared to show the cows approaching Mr and Mrs Holmes from behind and "accelerating".

Mr Holmes sustained fatal chest injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene, while Mrs Holmes spent six months in hospital after suffering a spinal cord injury and fractured ribs.

Michael and Teresa Holmes Credit: Family handout/PA

Jurors were told of three incidents in the three months before Mr Holmes's death in which walkers with dogs on leads were chased by cattle in the same field, including one which left a man with serious injuries.

Today (17 January), farmer Martin Mitchell said he was "totally unaware" of his cattle being aggressive towards walkers before Mr Holmes's death.

He said he had been visited by a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector after Netherton resident John Burgess suffered four broken ribs when he was knocked to the ground by the cows in June 2020, but was not told exactly what had happened.

"I'd been given information that he had been taken to A&E but I wasn't made aware of the extent of the injuries," Mr Mitchell said.

He said he did not know about incidents in July and August 2020 which were not reported before Mr Holmes's death.

He added that three months before Mr Holmes's death - he had put signs next to the stiles leading into the field telling walkers to keep their dogs under control, but that the signs did not warn that cows with calves were in the field.

Asked whether he had taken any other steps to manage the risk of cattle with calves coming into contact with dog walkers after Mr Burgess was injured, Mr Mitchell said: "We have no alternatives, basically. The cows have to graze in them particular fields."

He added that he "had nowhere else to put them" and needed all 33 acres across three fields to maintain the herd's grazing throughout summer.

The incident left Teresa Holmes in a wheelchair. Credit: Family photo

The inquest also heard evidence from Mr Mitchell's son Edward Mitchell, who called 999 after finding Mr and Mrs Holmes on the ground.

He said he rushed to the field from the farmhouse after hearing the cows making a distressed noise, and performed CPR on Mr Holmes, who was not breathing, until an air ambulance arrived.

The inquest continues.

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