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TIGER EATS MAN'S ARM; The curse of Chipperfields strikes keeper.

A TIGER owned by the world-famous Chipperfield Circus bit off part of a worker's arm yesterday and swallowed it whole.

Nigel Wesson, 32, slumped screaming to the ground after the 500lb beast lunged at him and sank its teeth into his forearm after he had fed it.

As the four-year-old Bengal tiger ran off with the severed limb, police and paramedics dragged the victim to safety. He was airlifted by helicopter to hospital where surgeons amputated his left arm above the elbow.

Mr Wesson even managed to joke about the accident as he was wheeled in.

When asked if he was allergic to anything he replied: "Only tigers."

The accident happened at the Chipperfield's circus training centre near Oxford.

A spokesman for the Chipperfield family said Mr Wesson had finished feeding the tiger when the beast pounced.

"The keeper was in the process of trying to move the tiger after feeding. The keeper was outside the cage.

"He put his hand inside the cage to move a partition open and the tiger caught his left hand and lower left arm."

Last night police said the tiger would not be put down.

It was the second horror to strike the Chipperfield family in weeks.

Last month Richard Chipperfield was left with brain injuries after a tiger turned on him at a photo call in Florida. His brother Graham, 28, shot the beast dead. After yesterday's accident, paramedic Chris Hurley told of the horrific scene she found when she arrived.

She said: "The victim was sitting just a few yards from where the tiger had bitten him.

"There were a lot of animal noises but no sign of the tiger.

"The man had lost a great deal of blood and was in a lot of pain, but one of his circus colleagues who had helped him had done a marvellous first aid



job. The man had lost his left arm below the elbow and he told me that a tiger had bitten it off. He said 'my arm's gone' and I knew straight away there was no point in trying to find it. He was very brave and was talking to us all the time."

A worker at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, where Mr Wesson was said to be stable after surgery, said: "We asked him if he was allergic to anything and he smiled and replied 'only tigers'.

"It was incredible but I guess he was in deep shock and they must have pumped him full of something before he came in.

"He is stable and he was conscious throughout the whole procedure before going into theatre.

"He was brought in alone and there is no-one here from Chipperfields. We have not been able to contact all his relatives yet."

Mr Wesson had worked for the company for only a couple of weeks and lived on his own in the Chipperfield compound.

Last night Jim Clubb, the son-in-law of Dickie and Janet Chipperfield, who are in Florida, said: "The family is having the most terrible time of it at the moment."

Chipperfield Enterprises Ltd, run by Dickie at Chipping Norton, has a licence for 18 lions and five tigers.

A spokesman said: "Our family has bred tigers for 50 years and up until January this year, we have never before had any kind of serious accident with a tiger. Now two accidents have occurred in two months. We are heartbroken."

Last month The Mirror told of a catalogue of alleged abuses of animals at both Chipping Norton and Dickie's cousin Mary Chipperfield's farm in Over Wallop, Hants.

The shock report by undercover investigators from the charity the Animal Defenders claimed lions and tigers had escaped from Dickie Chipperfield's compound in the past.

It told how a lion named Thunder began to climb out of a hole in one of the practice rings in March last year.

And a group of five lions allegedly escaped from the site in February, 1993.

Police are currently studying video evidence.

Animal Defenders director Jan Creamer said last night: "While we have every sympathy for the victim, our investigation showed this was an accident waiting to happen."
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1998 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:Armstrong, Jeremy
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Feb 26, 1998
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