Mon, 16 January 2023 at 3:59 pm GMT
A woman left paralysed and in a coma after being trampled by a herd of cows woke up in hospital to learn her husband had been killed during the tragic accident.
Teresa Holmes and her husband Michael were on a lockdown walk a short distance from their home in Netherton, West Yorkshire, when they were crushed by the animals.
An inquest into Mr Holmes’a death has heard he was fatally injured while his wife was left wheelchair-bound after six months in hospital after the incident in September 2020.
Mrs Holmes told the hearing that she and her husband were childhood sweethearts and had been married for 34 years. They had started taking daily walks together while both were working from home during lockdown.
They took their daughter’s two dogs and followed a public footpath up a steep hill, unaware that several dozen cows with calves were at the top of the slope.
CCTV footage from a nearby property appeared to show the cattle approaching the couple from behind and “accelerating”.
Mr Holmes sustained fatal chest injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene, while his wife spent six months in hospital after suffering a spinal cord injury and fractured ribs.
Mrs Holmes, who has two children, said she has no recollection of the incident, possibly due to her memory “protecting” her.
She told the inquest she remembers asking her husband which route they were going to take shortly before going into the field, but has no memory after that until she woke up in hospital weeks later, which she said “is a good thing really, considering what happened”.
The inquest heard that COVID-19 restrictions meant the widow was not allowed visitors for much of her time in hospital, with her two daughters having to stand at the window to see her.
She said they also had to break the news to her that her husband had died.
“It was a very, very traumatic time, quite isolating,” she said. “I was just really confused, I couldn’t work out why I was there and my daughters eventually had to explain they had lost their dad.”
The two dogs managed to escape and were found by a neighbour near the Holmes’s home, it was said.
Mrs Holmes told the inquest she and and her husband had been in the same field “scores” of times and were aware it “sometimes” had cattle in, but that they did not see them on that day due to the steep hill.
“I do recall incidents where we came the reverse way and you can see the cows from there,” she told the hearing. There were times when we’d seen them and decided not to go in the field because I don’t want to cross a field I know has got cattle in.”
Jurors were shown a picture of a sign at the bottom of the field that said: “These fields produce your food, clean up after your dog. Please keep your dog in sight and under control.”
Mrs Holmes said there was no sign saying cows with calves were in the field.
“It’s my understanding there were calves and if they have seen the dogs on the field, even though they were on leads, they would have felt potentially a threat from them,” she said.
“I feel there should be some signage there that says ‘there are cattle with calves’. Had that been the case, we would definitely not have entered.
“They shouldn’t be on a public footpath where they are likely to charge.”
The inquest at Wakefield Civil & Family Justice Centre heard the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) had recorded nine UK fatalities due to cattle in five years, with HSE inspector Sarah Taylor saying there had been a spike in incidents in 2020.
The inquest continues.