A farmer had a ‘good plan’ for moving cows on the day a doting gran was trampled to death by one of his herd, an inquest heard today.
Alistair Nixon said he had no problems with any of his 140 cows attacking people in ’40 years of farming’.
But around 15 cows and their calves broke free before teacher Marian Clode was trampled and killed on a public bridle path across his land in Belford, Northumberland on April 3, 2016.
Marian, 61, was with husband Christopher, 67, their daughter Lucy Rowe, 42, Lucy’s husband Kevin Rowe, 47, and their children, Charlotte, then seven, and Oliver, eight.
Mr Nixon told the inquest into her death in Newcastle: “I used a plan developed over 40 years without incident.
“I know with hindsight that I could have done things differently. But I had a good plan to reduce the risks.”
He added: “It was very unlikely that placid cows would become aggressive. I accept they can become unpredictable.
“You cannot guarantee they won’t come into contact with walkers because you cannot close the public footpaths.”
Mr Nixon was asked by senior coroner Karen Dilks : “Would you acknowledge there was a risk that members of the public would be on that route?”
He replied: “Yes.”
Asked if a farm worker could have stood on the brow of the hill to check for members of the public on the footpath where the attack happened, he again replied: “Yes.”
Derry-born Mrs Clode and her family had been out for a walk near their holiday cottage on Mr Nixon’s Swinhoe Farm when about 15 cows appeared on a nearby hill.
One ran down and attacked Mrs Clode, throwing her in the air like a ‘rag doll’, killing her ‘in an instant’, the inquest jury heard.
Lucy said in evidence: “I looked up and there were about 15 cows stampeding towards my mum. That’s when I knew we were in big trouble.
“My mum did very well to make herself small, but she had no time to do anything, she did what she could.
“They were running very, very fast. The lead cow, the big black cow slowed.
“It hit her, backed up, hit her again, then backed up and hit her again and threw her over the fence like a rag doll.”
She added: “No one warned us about the cows – I wish they had. There were no warning signs, none whatsoever.
“My mum was exactly where she should have been….she was not in the field.
“She screamed….that was the last thing she knew, the last thing she ever said. She did not have time to escape.”
Mrs Clode, who had crouched by a gate post, was taken by air ambulance to a hospital in Newcastle where Lucy was given the “worst news ever”.
Farmers had a responsibility to “protect all members of the public on their land”‘, the inquest heard.
Cows, particularly with calves, posed a ‘higher risk’ to members of the public because of the ‘maternal bond between mother and calf’.
Mrs Clode, a “much-loved” primary school teacher from Ashton-under-Lyne, was on holiday in Northumberland at the time of the accident.
From 2015-2020, the HSE investigated 142 incidents involving cattle.
A total of 22 resulted in a death. The majority worked with cattle.
Members of the public accounted for four deaths. The inquest continues.