Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 2 October 2014

Bear killing inquest verdict due

Horatio Chapple, 17, was on an adventure holiday to the remote Svalbard islands in August 2011 with the British Schools Exploring Society (BSES) when he died

A coroner will deliver his conclusions at the inquest of an Eton schoolboy mauled to death by a polar bear today.

Ian Singleton, assistant coroner for Wiltshire and Swindon, adjourned the week-long hearing last Friday until 3pm today.

Horatio Chapple, 17, was on an adventure holiday to the remote Svalbard islands in August 2011 with the British Schools Exploring Society (BSES) when he died.

The teenager, from Salisbury, Wiltshire, was sleeping in his tent when the bear went on the rampage, inflicting fatal injuries to his head and upper body.

Four others were hurt before the bear was shot dead at the camp site where the group, known as Chanzin Fire, had been staying.

Also injured during the incident were trip leader Michael "Spike" Reid, from Plymouth, Devon, Andrew Ruck, from Brighton, Patrick Flinders, from Jersey, and Scott Bennell-Smith, from St Mellion in Cornwall.

Mr Singleton decided to adjourn the hearing after listening to legal submissions, including from Lizanne Gumbel QC, representing the Chapple family, urging him to consider the issue of "neglect".

During the inquest, Ms Gumbel has criticised BSES for providing "unsafe" equipment, particularly the tripwire system which had missing parts and had been modified using paperclips by the expedition group.

The tripwire failed to go off prior to the bear attack, although expedition leaders pointed out during the hearing that Norwegian police had suggested this was caused by the bear knocking the post over rather than not triggering the wire.

In an independent report into the bear attack by High Court judge Sir David Steel, commissioned by BSES, he criticised the society for its reliance on the tripwire system.

He said that a bear watch should be used instead and also called for an overhaul of rifle training.

The inquest previously heard the polar bear which killed Horatio was elderly and had been suffering from worn-down teeth, which would have led to it becoming stressed and behaving "more aggressively and unpredictably".

Mr Singleton said a post-mortem examination of the bear's mouth found worn down teeth caused by bad alignment, a cavity, swollen and red gums and peritonitis in several teeth.

Examination of the teeth showed the bear was around 24 years old while an independent report produced by High Court judge Sir David Steel on behalf of BSES said it weighed 250kg, rather than the typical 400kg.

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