Zookeeper was mauled to death by tiger

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A zookeeper was mauled to death by a tiger after it managed to enter an enclosure while she was cleaning the windows of an adjoining public viewing area, an inquest heard today.

Rosa King, 33, died of "traumatic injuries" after the "freak accident" at Hamerton Zoo Park in Cambridgeshire on 29 May, 2017.

Her body was dragged by Malayan tiger called to Cicip to the far side of the enclosure before it was spotted by a visitor who raised the alarm.

Other zoo keepers rushed to the enclosure and managed to coerce Cicip into his own run before paramedics entered the paddock and confirmed her death at 11.46am.

Immediately after her death, two gates and the metal slide which separated the paddock and the run were found to be in the open position allowing the tiger inside.

During an inquest held today, at Huntingdon Town Hall, the jury of five men and five women heard from coroner, Mr Nicholas Moss.

The inquest heard that a post-mortem later revealed Rosa had been suffered extensive cuts to her neck, puncture wounds to her arms and a severed spine.

Mr Moss told the jury: "From a young age animals were her thing. Not just in her spare tone but it was what she always was going to do in one form or another as her job."

After school Rosa went to college and got a qualification in animal care.

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She left college in 2003 and began work at the zoo in 2004 working there for 13 until the "sad events" that led to her death.

Mr Moss said: "She developed a passion for cheetahs and tigers and in time she became senior carnivorous keeper at the zoo responsible for the big cats."

The inquest heard that tigers are a greater risk category of animal meaning they are likely to cause serious injuries or are a serious threat to life.

On the day of the incident, Rosa was working alongside a work experience student called Lucy Tonkin between 9.15am and 9.35am until Rosa had to go work at the tiger house.

Part of Rosa's tasks were to clean the paddock including the viewing window and letting one of the tigers Cicip out of the tiger house.

At this time, the zoo was not open to the public which opened at 10am.

When the zoo opened, Mr Frank York was the first person to see Rosa and raised the alarm sparking a huge emergency response including police, paramedics, an air ambulance and fire arms officers.

Mr Moss told the jury: "He went to get help and a number of colleagues responded to that emergency.

"The pubic were evacuated and the paramedics were called.

"The keepers who came to assist were able to coerce the tiger back into his run and the slide was closed behind him to make the area safe again.

"It was not necessary to shoot the tiger or put him down."

The tranquilizer which was kept in the zoo not used and the fire arms officers were not deployed.

There were two tigers in the enclosure which were kept separately because they would often fight.

There was a concrete tiger house which also served a completely separate enclosure for the white Bengal tigers.

The slide, which was operated by metal wires, was in the open position and was intended to separate the main paddock from a run which lead to the tiger house.

Both a metal gate and a wooden gate were used by the keepers to access the paddock.

Mr Moss added: "There is a lack of witnesses to what happened and the reason for that is because Rosa was working alone in the tiger area.

The hearing was attended by Rosa's parents Andrea and Peter King, 57, among other relatives and representatives from the zoo.

Andrea King, mum of Rosa, broke down as she described her daughter as "kind and compassionate."

She said: "She was generous kind caring compassionate person, a lovely person who lived life to the full.

"She was a happy, outgoing child who was respectful of others. She couldn't be a better daughter. The family are very proud of all her achievements.

"She was always there for her younger brother, he looked up to her.

"She followed her dreams. It wasn't very often you wouldn't see her with a smile on her face.

"She found time for others, a shoulder to cry on, a listening ear, she was always helping others.

"She was very knowledgeable about all the animals in her care.

"There came a time when Rosa thought about moving on to gain experience working elsewhere.

But Hamerton was where she wanted to be, it was her second home. Rosa and her colleagues worked very close together and were a tight family unit."

Her mother last saw her on May 19 when she came to visit and described Rosa as being "happy, relaxed and excited about her friends wedding.

Andrea added: "I asked her about the safety procedures. She took me through the policy procedure and said two people worked together was much safer.

"She was always confident and aware if what was going on around her. I was not aware of any concerns she had."

The inquest, which is scheduled to last two weeks, continues.