UK & World News

  • 8 July 2014, 17:42

Polar Bear Killing: Trip Leader 'Wrestled' Animal

An inquest into the death of a 17-year-old boy mauled by a polar bear has heard how the trip leader was bitten on the head as he wrestled the animal.

Horatio Chapple was mauled to death while on an adventure holiday to the remote Svalbard islands with the British Schools Exploring Society (BSES) in August 2011.

Trip leader Michael Reid, known as Spike, from Plymouth, Devon, described how he ran from his tent with his rifle after hearing shouts of "bear" or "bear attack".

"The only priority was getting out as swiftly as possible and taking the rifle with me as this was a serious situation," he said.

"I was not focusing on other people - other than the bear that was on top of person on the ground. I do not recall seeing Horatio.

"I cocked the rifle, took aim, aimed it carefully as I didn't want to shoot the YE (young explorer), although it was close I didn't want to injure the YE or worse.

However, the rifle failed to fire at first.

"I cocked the rifle again and took another attempt at an aimed shot at the bear," Mr Reid continued.

"I do not know why this failure was happening and so I carried on this until the magazine was empty."

Mr Reid then described how the bear turned on him: "I remember the bear biting my head and I thought the weakest part is the eyes so I tried to take out the eyes with my fingers, but was unsuccessful.

"Once it had moved off me I then recall asking 'Where is my rifle?' and someone said 'It's in your tent' and I found it there.

"With one of the rounds that was on the ground having been ejected, I cocked the rifle and fired the round at the bear as it was attacking someone else."

He said that this time the weapon worked and fired a shot at the bear.

Eton pupil Horatio, from the Wiltshire city of Salisbury, was asleep in his tent when the bear inflicted fatal injuries to his head and upper body.

Four others were hurt before the bear was shot dead.

Mr Reid said he could not remember seeing Horatio during the attack but paid tribute to the teenager.

"He was a member of our team, one of the best in our team if not the best in the whole expedition," he said.

"He was a fine young gentleman with amazing potential, I enjoyed being on the expedition with him."

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