Northumberland farm to pay over £100k after teacher killed by cow in 'fight mode'

15 December 2023, 16:26

Marian Clode was out for a walk in Northumberland in 2016 when she was attacked by a cow.
Marian Clode was out for a walk in Northumberland in 2016 when she was attacked by a cow. Picture: Clode family

By Ana Truesdale

A Northumberland farm must pay over £100,000 after teacher Marian Clode was killed by an escaped cow during a walk with her family in 2016.

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Marian Clode was killed in 2016 as she was out for a walk with her family in Northumberland.

The primary school teacher was injured by a cow which tossed her over a wooden gate.

Newcastle Crown Court heard the cow repeatedly charged at her in front of her husband, daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren.

Mrs Clode suffered serious spinal injuries after the incident and died three days later in Newcastle's Royal Victoria Infirmary Hospital aged 61.

The cow was one of over a dozen that had escaped the control of Swinhoe Farm's herdsmen.

JM Nixon and Son, which runs the Belford-based farm, has been fined £72,500 and ordered to pay £34,700 in legal costs.

The firm will also have to pay a victim surcharge of several hundred pounds.

Mr Nixon, on behalf of JM Nixon and Son, admitted to failing to ensure the safety of persons, other than employees, by exposing them to risks to their safety from the movement of cattle.

Judge Tim Gittins passed the sentence on Friday at Newcastle Crown Court and called the incident a "salutary lesson" for herdsmen moving livestock.

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On Wednesday, the court heard that farmer Alastair Nixon was moving a herd of beef cattle when over a dozen cows escaped and moved away down a bridle path.

As he had previously checked the bridle path was clear, he decided not to follow the cows unaware that Mrs Clode and her family were being approached by the cattle.

The judge said: "Mrs Clode was simply not in a position to take any evasive action when one of the cows turned on her and repeatedly attacked her in the distressing way described by those witnessing it.

"Others had to take what emergency steps they could, children being lifted at speed over fences, others catching themselves on the barbed wire as they sought shelter from the stampeding cattle."

Craig Hassall KC, for the prosecution, referred to a statement by a cattle behaviour expert Miriam Parker and said: "Cattle in full-blown fight mode will attack using their head, often repeatedly, and patently that is what transpired here."

A group of seven or eight cows with five or six calves escaped and headed towards Mrs Clode and her family.
A group of seven or eight cows with five or six calves escaped and headed towards Mrs Clode and her family. Picture: Getty

Tom Gent, representing JM Nixon and Son, said Mr Nixon wanted to apologise and "express heartfelt sympathy" to everybody who knew Mrs Clode.

After the sentencing, Mrs Clode's family said her death was "completely avoidable."

They said in a statement: "In the seconds we had to react, Marian, who was a little ahead, had the least time, but still managed to move to the side of the track and make herself as inconspicuous as possible, tucked against a wooden gate, beneath an overhanging tree.

"Despite this, Marian was attacked by the lead cow and suffered fatal injuries.

"In the immediate aftermath of the incident and in the months and now years which have passed, we believed Marian lost her life because of JM Nixon and Son's failure to implement even the most basic safe systems of work.

"Marian's death was completely avoidable, which makes coming to terms with our loss even more difficult."

The court heard that the farm has since changed the way it moves cattle and has not had any incidents since Mrs Clode’s death.

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