Sarah McClay inquest: Zoo owner 'fired rifle' at tiger

Sarah McClay Image copyright Stephen McClay
Image caption Miss McClay was motionless as the tiger stood over her, the inquest heard

The owner of a zoo where a tiger mauled a keeper to death has described how he fired a rifle at the animal after the attack.

Sarah McClay, 24, died in May last year after a male Sumatran Tiger left her with deep wounds at the South Lakeland Animal Park near Dalton-in-Furness.

An inquest heard David Gill fired a rifle at the animal as it was standing over her motionless body.

The shot scared it into the tiger house so emergency services could get to her.

'Ran like crazy'

Zoo owner Mr Gill told how he ran to the scene when he heard on the park radio the tiger, called Padang, "had got Sarah".

He made his way to the side of the enclosure armed with a rifle but could not get a clear shot.

He said: "I took real good care to look at Sarah. She didn't move at all. She was completely still."

A colleague radioed him to say she had a view of the tiger and Miss McClay from the penguin walkway, so he "ran like crazy" to get there.

Mr Gill told the jury: "Again I couldn't get a clean shot without the risk of shooting her. I decided to take a shot at the top of the tiger's shoulder.

"At the moment the rifle went off the tiger just ran off straight back into the tiger house."

Image caption Padang walked in through an open enclosure door from outside, the hearing heard on Tuesday

The inquest in Kendal heard on Tuesday the animal went through an open door into a corridor where Miss McClay, from Glasgow, was working before dragging her by the neck into the den.

The tiger enclosure included a "dark den" and a "light den" and featured lockable self-closing doors to keep animals separate from keepers.

'Defective bolt'

Mr Gill founded the zoo, now known as South Lakes Safari Zoo, and designed the tiger house himself.

He said it was subject to major inspections every six years and roughly annual spot checks.

He said no one had ever raised concerns about its design.

Barrow Council's senior environmental officer, Owen Broadhead, said on Monday a bolt on the door between the dark den and the keepers' corridor was found to be defective after the attack.

But he said the damage could have been done by emergency services trying to access the scene.

The hearing continues.

Image caption The jury heard Mr Gill designed the tiger house himself

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