Inquest into death of Wiltshire schooboy killed by polar bear to begin

Inquest into death of Wiltshire schooboy killed by polar bear to begin

Horatio Chapple

Devizes MP Claire Perry

First published in News
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The inquest into the death of an Eton schoolboy mauled by a polar bear on an Arctic expedition will start today.

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

The 17-year-old from from Salisbury was sleeping in his tent when the bear went on the rampage, inflicting fatal injuries to his head and upper body.

Four others were hurt, while the bear was shot dead by one of the group leaders.

At the time, Devizes MP Clair Perry, a close friend of Horatio’s mother, Olivia, said: “This is such a tragedy it is almost unbearable. Horatio had developed from a gawky teenager to a fine young man and was poised to fly the nest and do great things in the world.

“ It is a terrible, terrible thing to have happened.”

An investigation by Norwegian officials later ruled that the death resulted from "a number of unfortunate circumstances''.

Following the inquiry, Svalbard's governor stressed the British Schools Exploring Society did not act negligently under criminal law.

Horatio's parents lodged an appeal but prosecutors in Norway later upheld the original decision that no criminal charges should be brought.

The month after Horatio's death High Court Judge Sir David Steel was appointed to chair an independent inquiry into the incident.

Sir David completed his report in July 2012 but its publication was delayed until the inquest could be heard.

It is scheduled to be published this morning to coincide with the start of the inquest, which is being held before Assistant Coroner for Wiltshire and Swindon Ian Singleton and is expected to last for five days.

Horatio, who aspired to become a doctor, was praised by his family following his death for his "amazing sense of humour and ability to laugh at himself''.

Eton College paid tribute to a popular pupil, saying his death was "devastating".

Edward Watson, chairman of the British Exploring Society, said he was a "fine young man" who "had all the hallmarks of a true leader".

Also injured during the incident were: Michael Reid, 29, from Plymouth; Andrew Ruck, 27, from Brighton; 17-year-old Patrick Flinders, from Jersey; and 16-year-old Scott Bennell-Smith, from St Mellion, Cornwall.

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