'Beserk' herd of cattle killed woman, 87, at countryside beauty spot

Hilary Adair was knocked to the ground by Belted Galloway cattle at a countryside beauty spot and repeatedly attacked as she tried to get up.
Hilary Adair was knocked to the ground by Belted Galloway cattle at a countryside beauty spot and repeatedly attacked as she tried to get up.
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The death of an 87-year-old woman killed by a herd of "beserk" cattle must lead to greater awareness of the dangers cows can pose, a coroner has said.

Hilary Adair was knocked to the ground by Belted Galloway cattle at a countryside beauty spot and repeatedly attacked as she tried to get up.

An inquest into her death took place in Crawley on Friday.

An inquest into her death took place in Crawley on Friday.

She was airlifted to hospital from Linchmere Common in Sussex but never regained consciousness and died a week later.

An inquest into her death took place in Crawley on Friday.

Her daughter Susan Berrisford said that had her mother known the cows had been "spooked" the day before, she would not have gone on to the common.

The fatal cattle assault came just a day after a couple and their dogs were chased and injured by the same animals, leaving the husband "covered in blood".

But the inquest was told that those responsible for the animals were not immediately conscious of the seriousness of the attack, viewing it as an "isolated incident", the inquest heard.

Bryony Dillamore witnessed the attack on Mrs Adair when she was walking her dog on January 7.

She said: "I didn't see any signs to indicate that it was not safe to enter the common.

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"I then noticed that the cattle surrounding what I then understood was an elderly person... with blood all over her head and chest."

Ms Dillamore said that every time Mrs Adair moved the cattle would become more aggressive towards her.

She immediately called the ambulance service and others and eventually Mrs Adair was able to be rescued from the herd.

"I believe the cattle were completely out of control."

Mrs Adair was airlifted to St George's Hospital in London but died from her injuries on January 14.

Rachel Thompson told the inquest how she and her husband Carl were set upon by the same cattle herd the day before.

"We were just walking and chatting and that is when we kind of got the sensation that some cows had come behind us and they were very, very close to us.

"We had heard one bellowing and my husband said run and we did.

"One of them hit me in the right side of the ribs and knocked me flying.

"I was lying there terrified.

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"I was waiting to be trampled, I was bracing myself for it."

But her husband managed to beat them away with a stick and she managed to get back to her feet.

The attack continued however and it was some time before the couple managed to escape the field.

Mr Thompson - who was left bleeding from his injuries - said the cattle had "gone beserk".

They contacted The Lynchmere Society, which owns the common, and were put in touch with Lynchmere Community Grazing CIC, the company which owns and looks after the cattle.

Edwin Brooks, one of the directors of the grazing company and who cares for the cattle said that they examined the livestock that night, but at that point were not aware of the seriousness of the attack on Mr and Mrs Thompson.

He told the inquest: "I thought this was an isolated incident."

The cattle were moved to another area of the common and Mr Brooks and his colleague made plans to "monitor the situation" and check on the cattle the next morning.

The next day Mrs Adair and her dog were attacked by the herd, with fatal consequences.

Asked about the future of the cattle herd, which has not been let back onto the common, Mr Brooks said he would want guarantees of change before that were to happen.

"We would take that decision to reintroduce cattle really seriously and it would not happen without changes being made.

"Until then we are not putting those cows on public access land."

Senior coroner Penelope Schofield returned a conclusion of accidental death.

She said: "We will never really know what prompted either the attack on Mr and Mrs Thompson or on Mrs Adair.

"Mrs Adair was particularly vulnerable. She really didn't stand a chance against a herd of agitated cows.

"It is particularly sad that she met her death on the very land that she loved so much.

"There must be some learning that comes out of this tragic incident.

"Even the most docile cow will attack if they feel threatened."

She said she hoped that Mrs Adair's death raises awareness of the dangers of cattle if they are antagonised and that people take care when they see cows.

She offered her sincere condolences to Mrs Adair's family.

Mrs Berrisford said after the inquest that she thought the cattle should have been removed from the common after the incident involving Mr and Mrs Thompson.

"Something had spooked them, something had upset them, and I think they should have been removed.

"Or there should have been signs put up, saying we are dealing with the cattle, please stay off the common for a few hours until these signs come down.

"But that didn't happen and my mum was the victim.

"If she had been aware that the cattle were spooked she wouldn't have gone on the common."

After the inquest, the Lynchmere Society and Lynchmere Community Grazing CIC issued a joint statement.

They said: "The Lynchmere Society and Lynchmere Community Grazing are voluntary organisations who act in the interests of environmental conservation and community benefit.

"Both organisations offer their sincerest condolences to Hilary's family.

"Everyone in the community was shocked and deeply saddened by these tragic events and the loss of a valued friend and local figure.

"The safety of the public and animal welfare are of paramount importance to us.

"Very serious discussion between our organisations and ongoing dialogue with the family and our membership within the community will be had going forward before any decision regarding future grazing activities on the commons are made."