TRIBUTES were yesterday paid at the funeral of a woman mauled to death by a tiger at a wildlife park in England.
Sarah McClay, 24, died when she was killed by a Sumatran tiger where she worked at the South Lakes Wild Animal Park, in Dalton-in-Furness, Cumbria.
Police are still investigating the incident on 24 May.
Her partner David Shaw told the 200 family, friends and colleagues at the service: “Each and every one of you know she had a way of approaching people, a charisma you could not help to acknowledge, and I was lucky enough to be close to Sarah for seven years.
“I haven’t got many words for you – I just want to thank you all and just say how much Sarah would’ve thought you were causing a fuss.”
Miss McClay was a keen conservationist and her coffin was made of a woven reed material. As her loves ones said she would not want even a flower to die in her name, there were no memorial wreaths. Instead, mourners were asked to donate to the Red Squirrel Survival Trust, a cause about which she was passionate.
Her mother Fiona McClay, sister Lucy, 20, and brother Stephen, 27, accompanied her partner leading mourners into the crematorium at Barrow, where the couple lived. The service was filled with poems, music and moving eulogies.
The McClay family moved to Cumbria from Glasgow in 1998. Miss McClay’s father Nick died four years ago and her mother recently returned to Scotland.
Miss McClay studied animal conservation at university in Cumbria and the service, which was non-religious, heard from friends from her student days.She was described as a happy, bubbly person with an infectious, positive attitude to life.
A proud Scot, at the last Burns’ Night, Miss McClay had asked friends to write poems about the friendship they shared. Michael Simpson said Miss McClay’s poem included the words: “Even when you are far away, the fellowship of the wind is near.”
Colleague Fiona Clewer said: “She was the kind of person who would brighten your day just by being part of it. To her family – I know you know this already – but she’s an absolute credit to you. God bless you, Sarah.”
Miss McClay was attacked by a tiger as she cleaned its pen. Her mother, from Linlithgow, pleaded for the rare Sumatran tiger to be spared as that would have been her daughter’s wish.
The wildlife park was closed yesterday to allow her co-workers to attend the funeral.
Members of the public can contribute to conservation efforts in which Miss McClay was involved at http://www.justgiving.com/SarahMcClay