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No charges over polar bear tragedy

The organisers of an Arctic expedition in which a schoolboy was mauled to death by a polar bear will not face charges, Norweigian officials have confirmed.

Horatio Chapple had been on an adventure holiday to the remote Svalbard islands last summer with the British Schools Exploring Society (BSES) when he died.

The 17-year-old Eton pupil, who was sleeping in his tent when the attack took place, sustained fatal injuries to his head and upper body after a polar bear went on the rampage. Four others were badly hurt. It later emerged a tripwire alarm system designed to scare away the animal had failed - despite functioning properly in tests beforehand.

Svalbard's governor Odd Olsen Ingero has ruled the death resulted from "a number of unfortunate circumstances", but stressed the BSES did not act negligently under criminal law.

A spokesman for the governor said: "The investigation after the accident at Von Postbreen (on) August 5 last year has now been brought to an end. Police officers at the governor's office have carried out a number of interviews and reconstructed the chain of events.

"Tripwire flares had been set up around the tent camp, and the group had two signal pens and a rifle. The equipment had been tested earlier, but the tripwire did not detonate when the bear entered the camp.

"A leader tried to fire a shot with the rifle, but did not succeed. When he managed to fire the rifle, the bear had already killed the 17-year-old, and wounded four others, amongst them himself.

"There were a number of unfortunate circumstances that led to the tragic accident. The governor does not find that BSES or the individuals acted with a degree of negligence qualifying for criminal liability. The case is therefore dismissed as no criminal offence."

Officials added that Mr Chapple's parents had lodged an appeal against the decision. The spokesman added: "The appeal will be handled by the public prosecutors' office of Troms and Finnmark."

BSES chairman Edward Watson said he would not comment on the governor's report until an independent investigation in the UK, known as the Chanzin Inquiry, had been completed.


From Belfast Telegraph