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Zoo visitor first to see body of keeper killed by tiger, inquest told

Zookeeper: Rosa King
Zookeeper: Rosa King

By Sam Russell

A keeper mauled to death by a tiger at a zoo was discovered by a visitor in the public viewing area who raised the alarm, an inquest has heard.

Rosa King (33) was cleaning the windows of the tiger enclosure when she was attacked by a Malayan male called Cicip at Hamerton Zoo Park in Cambridgeshire.

She died at the scene on May 29, 2017, yesterday's inquest in Huntingdon was told.

Nicholas Moss, Cambridgeshire's assistant coroner, said that immediately after the attack two gates and a metal vertical slide, designed to ensure staff and tigers were not in the paddock at the same time, were found to have been open.

Ms King, who was working alone, entered the enclosure shortly before the zoo opened to the public at 10am.

The male tiger Cicip "would tend to urinate on the windows during the day so they need to be cleaned so the public have a good view", Mr Moss said.

Frank York, a visitor to the zoo, saw her body from the viewing area and raised the alarm.

Keepers fetched the zoo's tranquilliser gun, while armed firearms officers and paramedics attended.

Neither the tranquilliser nor police firearms were used.

Mr Moss said keepers "were able to entice Cicip back into his run and the slide was closed behind him to make the area safe again".

Ms King had many injuries including lacerations and puncture wounds.

Mr Moss said "immediately after the attack" the slide intended to separate the main paddock from a run leading to the tiger house was found to be in the open position.

The slide was raised and lowered by wires attached to a system of pulleys.

The two gates used by keepers to access the paddock, one wooden and one metal, were also both open, Mr Moss said.

"We're going to need to explore how that happened and what the reason for that was," he said.

Mr Moss said a police investigation suggested there was not any mechanical fault with the gates and slides.

The inquest will hear evidence about the system used to ensure staff could not enter the paddock when tigers were present and whether that system "allowed protection against human error by the zookeeper who was in the tiger area", Mr Moss said.

Ms King's tearful mother Andrea said in evidence that her daughter did not express concerns about working conditions.

The hearing continues.

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