Inquest told of traumatic injuries suffered by zookeeper in Hamerton Zoo tiger attack

Rosa King
Rosa King

A zookeeper was mauled to death by a tiger after it managed to enter an enclosure while she was cleaning the windows of an adjoining public viewing area, an inquest heard today (mon).

Rosa King (33) died after suffering traumatic injuries when she was attacked by Cicip, a tiger, at Hamerton Zoo near Sawtry on May 29 2017.

Her body was dragged by Malayan tiger called to Cicip to the far side of the enclosure before it was spotted by a visitor who raised the alarm.

Other zoo keepers rushed to the enclosure and managed to coerce Cicip into his own run before paramedics entered the paddock and confirmed her death at 11.46am.

Immediately after her death, two gates and the metal slide which separated the paddock and the run were found to be in the open position allowing the tiger inside.

Today an inquest started at Huntingdon Town Hall.

Coroner, Nicholas Moss took the jury members through the bundle of documents in front of them, pointing out the layout of the tiger enclosure at Hamerton Park Zoo.

In particular their attention has been drawn to a sliding gate through which the rare male Malayan tiger would gain access from his paddock, to the run where he would exercise.

They have been told that the sliding gate, known as ‘Cicip gate’ was a galvanised metal sliding gate connected through metal wires to pulleys with counterweights that would allow the gate to open.

The jury were told this was not a computerised or otherwise mechanized gate. It is a simple mechanism with only a ‘closed’ or ‘open’ position.

The jury have been told there was a second similar galvanized metal gate leading to the paddock where the tiger was kept.

On the day in question, Rosa King initially was with a work experience girl called Lucy Thompson, but left her to go and clean the public viewing windows in the tiger enclosure before the zoo opened at 10am.

The pubic viewing windows needed daily cleaning as the male tiger ‘Cicip’ would urinate against them during the day.

The jury have been told that there were no witnesses to the actual attack upon Rosa King.

Mr Moss has also pointed out a diagram to the jury members showing an area where blood stains were found, where a set of keys were discovered, and empty bucket was laying on the ground and a paw print from the tiger ‘Cicip’.

The jury have also been shown an additional area where it is assumed the tiger ‘Cicip’ dragged the body of Rosa King.

Mr Moss said: “The first person to raise any kind of alarm was a Mr Frank York, who was a member of the public and who had seen the body of Rosa King. That was at approximately 11:15.

“Zoo officers were called and alerted to the situation, whereupon several of them entered the run and managed to entice Cicip back into the paddock.”

The jury members have heard that police firearms officers were in attendance and zoo officials with a tranquiliser gun, but because Cicip had been enticed back to his paddock he was not shot, and no firearms were used.

Mr Moss said: “As soon as Rosa King was seen it was immediately apparent that she was dead. Her death was reported at 11:46 am.”

Police Inquiry was convened as is usual in cases of ‘death at work’, and from this initial enquiries showed that no apparent mechanical fault could be found with the galvanised metal sliding gate through which ‘Cicip’ had entered the run.

The jury then heard an emotional account from Andrea King, Rosa’s mother, about her daughter’s life, her love of animals from a very young age, and her career working with animals - particularly large cats - since getting the job at Hamerton Park Zoo immediately after leaving college.

She said: “She was generous kind caring compassionate person, a lovely person who lived life to the full.

“She was a happy, outgoing child who was respectful of others. She couldn’t be a better daughter. The family are very proud of all her achievements.

“She was always there for her younger brother, he looked up to her.

“She followed her dreams. It wasn’t very often you wouldn’t see her with a smile on her face.

“She found time for others, a shoulder to cry on, a listening ear, she was always helping others.

“She was very knowledgeable about all the animals in her care.

“There came a time when Rosa thought about moving on to gain experience working elsewhere.

“But Hamerton was where she wanted to be, it was her second home. Rosa and her colleagues worked very close together and were a tight family unit.”

Her mother last saw her on May 19 when she came to visit and described Rosa as being “happy, relaxed and excited about her friends wedding.

Andrea added: “I asked her about the safety procedures. She took me through the policy procedure and said two people working together was much safer.

“She was always confident and aware if what was going on around her. I was not aware of any concerns she had.”

The inquest also heard from a pathologist about the fatal injuries Rosa suffered.

Coroner Mr Moss told the jury: “Nobody is on trial and there is no question of blame. You the jury need to listen and watch the evidence as presented to you and ask yourselves just four questions. First, who was Rosa King? Then when, where and how did she come to her death?”

The inquest is set to last 10 days,