The head keeper at Hamerton Zoo told an inquest jury that Rosa King wasn’t “just a work colleague, she was my best friend”.

Hamerton Zoo Park Tigers, with their donated christmas trees, staff (l-r) Rosa King, and Amy Beardmore,Hamerton Zoo Park Tigers, with their donated christmas trees, staff (l-r) Rosa King, and Amy Beardmore,

Katherine Adams broke down as she gave her evidence on Tuesday morning and was asked about her movements on the day Rosa died.

She told the hearing that on May 29, 2017, she was in London taking part in a 10k race and received a call from the zoo asking her to contact a colleague and she made her way home.

Asked about the scene when she arrived, Ms Adams acknowledged that the windows of the viewing area had been cleaned and Rosa's keys and bucket had been left by an exit gate which suggested she had completed her cleaning task and was about to leave the paddock.

Coroner Nicholas Moss said: "Is it the case that Rosa would never knowingly take a risk and that it would have been wholly out of character for her to do so?"

She replied: "Absolutely."

Asked whether Rosa is likely to have cleaned the windows knowing the tiger was in the paddock, she added: "All staff are safety conscious and they know tigers are so dangerous that you would never just pop in as you may never come out. You always locate the tiger first."

She went on: "The system was fool proof and it never entered our heads that it would go wrong. If you followed the protocol and carried out all the correct steps you should never put yourself in a situation with a tiger."

Ms Adams was asked whether she concurred with Mr Swales' assessment that it was likely Rosa had left the tiger in the paddock overnight and re-entered the area the following morning.

She said: "Yes, there is only one person who knows that, but yes."

Ms Adams was asked if she was aware of any issues with Rosa's levels of tiredness and whether the fact she was helping to feed a baby serval (a type of wild cat), which had been abandoned by its mother, through the night, had impacted on her wellbeing.

She said she was not aware of Rosa being especially tired and she would have offered to help her.

Ms Adams was asked about staff training and refresher courses and said there was "no formal process" and most things were done "through verbal communication with staff".

Rosa's father, Peter King, asked Ms Adams if a keeper was in the paddock with a tiger on the loose, would the tiger attack immediately or would it stalk.

She replied: "In my opinion, it would have stalked."