Teacher, 61, killed after being charged by cow three times and tossed over a gate in front of horrified family

13 December 2023, 15:47

Mrs Clode was killed in a cow attack
Mrs Clode was killed in a cow attack. Picture: Handout

By Will Taylor

A teacher was killed after a loose cow went into "fight mode" and tossed her over a gate in front of her family during a holiday.

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Marian Clode, 61, was walking in Northumberland for her Easter break when the animal charged and attacked her three times.

She suffered a severe spinal injury when she fell in the attack and died in April 2016.

On Wednesday, Alistair Nixon, 62, pleaded guilty to a health and safety breach on behalf of JM Nixon, which runs Swinhoe Farm near Belford.

Newcastle Crown Court heard the farmer and workers were moving a herd of more than 100 cattle from their winter quarters to summer grazing using a public right of way.

Mr Nixon was on a quad bike on the bridleway and was using a stick to stop cattle moving down the path, but seven or eight cows and up to six calves got past and carried on down the route.

Read more: Gaynor Lord: Timeline of missing mum's disappearance as CCTV of last known movements released

They disappeared from sight as they went over a hill.

Mrs Clode, who lived in Ashton-under-Lyne in Greater Manchester, was on an afternoon walk with family, and they were heading towards the cows.

Her relatives jumped over a barbed wire fence to avoid the breakaway herd, but Mrs Clode was attacked when a cow turned 90 degrees to her while she was next to a wooden gate.

Craig Hassall KC, prosecuting, said: "It charged at her two or three times and then tossed her over the wooden gate."

She was found unresponsive by her son-in-law, who got into her field, and Mr Nixon arrived to help with first aid as emergency services rushed to help.

Mrs Clode died after being taken to the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle.

Read more: Missing Gaynor Lord seen on CCTV smiling as she left work before hurrying through Norwich - as divers join search

The court was told farmers are guided by the Highway Code when moving livestock on public rights of way, and they are told to keep their animals under control at all times.

Mr Nixon had checked the route on his quadbike but Mrs Clode and her family, who were staying in holiday cottages, had not arrived yet.

Mr Hassall referred to evidence from cattle behaviour expert Miriam Parker.

"Cattle in full-blown fight mode will attack using their head, often repeatedly, and patently that is what transpired here," the court was told, and their behaviour would be exacerbated by the calves.

The cows could have been triggered by fear of falling down if it was being made to go downhill by more dominant animals behind.

Mr Nixon admitted failing to ensure the safety of persons other than employees by exposing them to risks to their safety from the movement of cattle.

Sentencing will take place on Friday.

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