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Rifle failed to fire as polar bear killed schoolboy, inquest hears

By Ben Mitchell

The trip leader of an expedition in which a 17-year-old boy was mauled to death by a polar bear has told an inquest how he wrestled with the predator as it attacked him after his rifle failed to fire.

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

The Eton pupil, from Salisbury, Wiltshire, was sleeping in his tent when the bear went on the rampage.

Trip leader Michael Reid told the Salisbury inquest that he was awoken by people shouting "bear attack". He grabbed the group's rifle and left his tent.

He said: "The bear was close and it was on top of one of the YEs (young explorers) in their sleeping bags. I believe it was Scott Bennell-Smith.

"I cocked the rifle, took aim, aimed it carefully as I didn't want to shoot the YE, although it was close I didn't want to injure the YE or worse.

"So I took a carefully aimed shot at the bear in the chest area of the bear but the rifle didn't fire."

Describing how the bear then turned on him, Mr Reid said: "I remember the bear biting my head." He later reloaded the rifle and shot the bear.

The court hear the rifle had a three-position safety catch mechanism which Mr Reid was unaware of.

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