Inquest into death of zoo keeper Rosa King opens in Huntingdon

Rosa King at Hamerton Zoo. Picture: ARCHANT

Rosa King at Hamerton Zoo. Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: Archant

Jurors in the inquest of Rosa King – who died after being mauled by a tiger at Hamerton Zoo – have been warned they will hear some distressing evidence.

Rosa King

Rosa King - Credit: Archant

Jurors in the inquest of Rosa King - who died after being mauled by a tiger at Hamerton Zoo - have been warned they will hear some distressing evidence.

Coroner Nicholas Moss told the jury of 10, five women and five men, there would be some distressing details during the hearing at Huntingdon Town Hall, which is set to last for two weeks.

Rosa, 33, died from "traumatic injuries" on the morning of May 29, 2017, after a Malayan tiger attacked her in a paddock area while she was cleaning the windows of a visitor viewing area. A post-mortem examination, read out at the inquest, revealed she suffered multiple lacerations, abrasions and puncture wounds to her neck and right arm and her cervical spine was severed after she was mauled by the male tiger called Cicip.

The inquest heard her body was discovered by a visitor and the alarm was raised, but a doctor who attended the scene described Rosa's injures as "incompatible with life". Police firearms officers attended the scene, but staff managed to coax the tiger back into its enclosure and a decision was made not to put the animal down. Rosa was formally pronounced dead at 11.46am at Papworth Hospital.

Rosa's parents Andrea and Peter King were in attendance, but Mr King chose not to listen to the medical evidence which detailed his daughter's injuries and left the inquest while this was read out.

Mr Moss proceeded to outline the evidence for the jury and explained the system of gates, known as slides, which are designed to allow staff to monitor the movement of tigers and ensure that keepers never enter an area where there is an animal.

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He explained to the jury there were several steel sliding gates that were operated mechanically by metal wires and pulleys. Cicip and a female tiger had to be separated at night as they tended to fight, but the policy was to shut them in dens and then let them out again the following morning.

Mr Moss told the inquest that Rosa, who was the zoo's senior carnivore keeper, had worked at the park for 15 years and, on the morning she died, she was working alone and it is estimated the incident happened some time after 9.40am.

She was attacked in the paddock area and evidence at the scene suggests the tiger dragged her body after attacking her.

It was later discovered that two of the slides that should have separated Rosa from the tigers were in the open position, which meant Rosa was in the paddock with the tiger and Mr Moss told the jury the evidence would "need to explore how that happened" and whether the incident was down to "human error".

A subsequent police investigation found "no mechanical failure or fault with the gates", Mr Moss told the jury.

The first witness to give evidence on Monday morning was Rosa's mum, Andrea, who read a statement. She became quite emotional, but managed to compose herself and described her daughter as a "happy and outgoing child" and said the family were "proud of all her achievements".

"She was generous, kind, caring and compassionate and we couldn't have asked for a better daughter," she added.

She went on to tell the jury that Rosa made it clear from an early age that she wanted to work with animals and was an inspiration to others in the field.

Mrs King said she last spoke to her daughter on May 19 and described her as "happy and relaxed" and said she was excited about a forthcoming hen do as she was due to be the maid of honour at a friend's wedding.